Christina Ricci, Lisa Kudrow, Ivan Sergei, Lyle Lovett, and Johnny Galecki in The Opposite of Sex (1997)


(director/writer: Don Roos; cinematographer: Hubert Taczanowski; editor: David Codron; cast: Christina Ricci (Dedee Truitt), Martin Donovan (Bill Truitt), Lisa Kudrow (Lucia), Lyle Lovett (Sheriff Carl Tippett), Ivan Sergei ( Matt Mateo), Johnny Galecki (Jason), William Scott Lee (Randy); Runtime: 101; Sony Pictures Classics; 1998)
“Roos’s first feature film as director is a snappy, satirical, and hip sitcom.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Roos’s first feature film as director is a snappy, satirical, and hip sitcom that tries hard not to be a sitcom. It stars Ricci as a bitchy 16-year-old without any noticeable positive qualities, who begins the film by warning those who don’t like her voice-overs that they will be out of luck. She narrates by filling in all the gaps in the story and emphasizing what her point of view is.

Ricci has run away from the Louisiana mother she despises after her step-father dies, and she chooses to live with her gay half-brother (Donovan). He lives with his lover Ivan. Donovan’s true love has died of AIDS and he has inherited his wealthy home. Ricci steals Ivan from Donovan by telling him that she is pregnant with his child. Ivan states that he is now a bisexual not a homosexual. So she runs away with Ivan and steals $10,000 from Donovan, plus the ashes from his deceased lover.

Lisa is the embittered, acid-tongued, single sister of Donovan’s dead lover. She works as a teacher in the same school as Donovan. In fact, she has a crush on him but to her dismay she introduced him to her brother.

Lyle Lovette is the low-key sheriff who woos Lucia. Johnny Galecki is the body-pierced gay, a former student at the high school Donovan teaches at, who falsely accuses him of making sexual advances. But he really pines for Ivan. William Scott Lee is the crazed Christian fundamentalist, who was born with one testicle and is Ricci’s lover and the real father of the child.

This film tells you how smart it thinks it is — that it is so cleverly written, that it can say anything about anyone and get away with it. What remained constantly grating throughout the film, was Ricci’s snide voice-over comments that were politically incorrect: insulting to gays and holding a negative view of sex. She dresses in revealing outfits and is always smoking a cigarette, adding to the film’s theme of her behavior being opposite to what is expected of a teen. Ricci succeeds in her role of getting the audience to dislike her, but in an amusing way. When you contrast the personalities of the men compared to the women it becomes apparent that the men leads are bland, while the women all have verve and fuller depth to their characters.

How one rates this film, depends on what one is looking for. If it is laughs one is after, there are plenty of them. If it is a well developed character-study film one seeks, then one might be disappointed — it also made me grow weary of its plot devices and put off by its overly clever voice-over. If it is acting one is looking for, then one can find some outstanding performances here. I especially appreciated Lisa’s role, as she finds it within herself to convey in an honest way how an intelligent but frightened and lonely woman behaves. If one is looking for some deep meaning, then one will be pleased by Lovett’s reflective statement to Lisa, “that sex isn’t just for recreation or procreation, but for concentration — that when making love, the experience allows one to relate wholly with someone else so that one can forget their loneliness.” Lovett goes on to say, “If his lover walks into a crowded room, he is the one he wants her to notice.”

For me, the film was a mixed bag of emotions. Since I am not partial to sitcom style movies, no matter how conventional or unconventional, I found myself swaying back and forth, liking some parts and resenting other parts, but never fully satisfied with its aims or results.