US Release Date: 05-22-1998
Directed by: Don Roos
- Christina Ricci, as
- Dede Truitt
- Martin Donovan, as
- Bill Truitt
- Lisa Kudrow, as
- Lucia DeLury
- Lyle Lovett, as
- Sheriff Carl Tippett
- Johnny Galecki, as
- Jason Bock
- William Lee Scott, as
- Randy 'One Ball' Cates
- Ivan Sergei, as
- Matt Mateo
- Colin Ferguson as
- Tom DeLury
Christina Ricci and Ivan Sergei in The Opposite of Sex.
The Opposite of Sex has an acerbic wit and is filled with darkly humorous situations but at its core it's really a feel-good, adult comedy about family. Writer/director Don Roos gave us this fast-paced and often hilarious story about a 16-year-old girl named Dede Truitt (Ricci) who runs away from her home in Louisiana after her stepfather's death and arrives unannounced at the Indiana home of her gay, schoolteacher, half-brother Bill (Donovan). She immediately begins to wreak havoc on his formerly peaceful life, all the while spouting plot exposition and commenting on the various characters via voice-over narration.
She seduces her brother's much younger boyfriend, then manipulates him into running away with her to L.A. and stealing ten grand from her brother. And that's just for starters. This leads to the brother being accused of having molested a male student (by a jealous former flame of the boyfriend) and eventually the gunshot death of a supporting character in a sordid motel room. Oh and did I mention that Dede is pregnant?
The ribald and scathing humor in The Opposite of Sex features some wickedly funny lines. Ricci, as narrator, says about her mom. “My mother was the kind of mother who always said she was her daughter's best friend. Whenever she did, I thought, "Great! Not only do I have a shitty mother, but my best friend's a loser bitch!"”
Lisa Kudrow plays the uptight (what else?) sister of Bill's dead boyfriend. She's bitterly unhappy and doesn't like people much. This is how she describes her feelings, “...like the Baroness in The Sound of Music. While everybody's just singing and climbing an Alp. And I just wanna STUFF THAT GUITAR UP THAT NUN'S ASS!”
Later Dede has the following exchange with her self-proclaimed Christian boyfriend Randy. Randy: “I'm just askin' that you stand by your man, like I'm standin' next to you! You know, a lot of guys, man, they woulda said that, "Shucks, man, she took up with them homosexuals. You know, she turned her back on righteousness."” Dede: “Oh, yeah, but blowing you in the backseat of your car every day after band, that was a stairway to heaven, right?”
The two women give the standout performances in the movie. The actresses, like the characters they play, face-off in a contest of who can be funnier. Kudrow quips at one point, “This is how we do things on the Planet Maturia. We have much to teach you.” And narrator Ricci says, “Rule one of sex: a person can do anything for ten minutes if they don't breath in.”
This movie has scads of quotable lines.
Although the characters aren't likable on the surface, they grow more sympathetic as the story goes along. The dialogue is refreshingly un-PC and the story ends on a surprisingly heartwarming note. The Opposite of Sex is one of my favorite comedies of the 1990s.
Lisa Kudrow in The Opposite of Sex
The Opposite of Sex starts out and plays mostly as a dark comedy. Although the humor is often gut busting, the two main characters are not very likable. Dedee is as she calls her mother, “a loser bitch.” Bill is depressed the entire film. Who wants to spend time with that? I did like how he handled the graffiti writing kid though. This movie promises not to but it wimps out at the end.
As Patrick wrote, there are definitely some quotable lines. One of my favorites is when a pregnant Dedee says of marriage, “I just don't think it's something we should rush into.” to which, the sharp tongued Lucia responds, “Oh, no, no. But bring another human life onto the planet - that's whim time.”
When this film came out I recall reading that because of this role, many critics considered Lisa Kudrow as the potential break out star from Friends. Although Jennifer Aniston took that prize, Kudrow has the kind of juicy role here that no one else from Friends has ever come close to. Lucia is not the most likable of characters, at first, but eventually we learn some of her history and in the hands of Kudrow we come to like her.
Lucia has the most romantic moment when she finally has sex with Sheriff Carl Tippett, who has been pining for her for a while. She has no idea of how to react to sex with him. Lyle Lovett as Carl has these lines to Lucia, who has been avoiding him, “What's the point of sleeping with you if it doesn't get your attention?” He continues, “Say the point of sex isn't recreation or procreation or any of that stuff. Say it's concentration. Say it’s supposed to focus your attention on the person you're sleeping with, like biological highlighter.” Lucia starts to get what he is saying, “So while I'm sleeping with you, I'm not supposed to care about anybody else?” Carl brings it home with, “Look for me first in any crowded room. And I'll do likewise. Otherwise, a person ends up sleeping with somebody else.”
The other character I liked was Matt Mateo, Bill’s, Dedee’s and Jason’s part time lover. As played by Ivan Sergei, Matt is on the surface nothing more than good looking and stupid. His ignorance is a source of some decent jokes. Lucia knows on sight that Dedee is not carrying Matt’s baby, telling him, “This is about trimesters.” Which Matt agrees with, “Yeah, I know. I want her to go back to school too.” Lucia never gives Matt a break. When he announces that he is bisexual, Lucia whines, “Puh-lease! I went to a bar mitzvah once. That doesn't make me Jewish.”
Living with Bill, Matt comes across as a gold digger. Bill has a nice home, some money and a job, while Matt spends his time swimming in the back yard pool. However, once Matt thinks Dedee is carrying his child he takes a job just to support her and what he thinks is his child. Near the end of the film, Matt and Bill have a conversation where we see that Matt, although not intellectual, did have a clear picture of his relationship with Bill.
I am not sure whatever became of Ivan Sergei but then again, other than Johnny Galecki starring on The Big Bang Bang Theory, no one in this cast has stayed on top. Christina Ricci was the “It” girl the year this came out. Her name was in the credits of seven different films in 1998. She has an attraction to dark roles and Dedee is one of her most entertaining.
Christina Ricci and Lisa Kudrow in The Opposite of Sex.
It's true that Kudrow never became the biggest celebrity of the Friends's cast, but she has shown the greatest range and acting ability of the group. Aniston and Perry ended up being the two to make the most movies, but both of them have been playing variations of Rachel and Chandler in almost every film they've made. There's not a trace of Phoebe in Kudrow's performance here.
Both my brothers mentioned that the characters aren't very likable, but they're all the more real for that. When we meet people in real life, it often takes us awhile to get to know them and such is the case with the characters here. It's not so much that they're truly unlikable, just that we need to get to know them before we fully understand them. Of all the characters, only Ricci's Dede is truly unlikable. She's entertaining as hell, but she's only looking out for herself and while we learn something about her difficult upbringing, her behavior is never justified. The ending does hint at the possibility of change within her, but no more than that and I certainly wouldn't call it wimping out.
The writing by Don Roos, who also directed, is razor sharp. My brothers mentioned several of the film's best lines, but the script is filled with quotable dialogue. The comedy ranges from subtle wit, to broad humor and all the different types in between. Ricci's meta-narration is particularly well done as she not only comments on the action, but references the fact that this is a movie, pointing out tropes and cliches as the film goes along. The script also has things to say about relationships, sex and the way the two can be deeply intertwined or completely separate. Lust can compliment love, but the one isn't required for the other.
Bringing the script to life is a terrific cast, several of who are well known, but none of them are really A-listers. Yet, I wouldn't change a single one of them. Each of them delivers a terrific performance, moving nicely between the comedy and the drama. The film won several Independent Spirit Awards, including wins for Ricci and Kudrow, while Ricci would score a Golden Globe nomination.
Somehow I'd avoided seeing this movie until now. I'm sorry it took so long, but I doubt it will be the last time I watch it.
Photos © Copyright Sony Pictures Classics (1998)