Sex, Lies, and Videotape | Chicago Reader

Sex, Lies, and Videotape

Winner of the grand prize at the 1989 Cannes film festival, this is an extremely well made chamber piece about sexual attitudes and impulses. At the center of this stylish comedy-drama are an up-and-coming yuppie lawyer (Peter Gallagher); his sexually repressed wife (Andie MacDowell); his sexually uninhibited mistress (Laura San Giacomo), who happens to be his wife's sister; and his former college chum, who's just moved back to town (James Spader, who won the prize for best actor at Cannes)—an impotent eccentric who likes to videotape women talking about their sexual experiences. Cunningly scripted and acted, and talky in the best sense, the film is engrossing to watch but not especially interesting to ponder afterward; it's certainly an improvement on formulaic Hollywood, but on a thematic level there's still more windup than delivery—it's a film that ultimately seeks to satisfy more than to provoke. Writer-director Steven Soderbergh works mainly in close-ups and medium shots, and while his close concentration on his quartet of characters makes for a narrative intensity, the relative absence of a wider social context leads to a certain overall preciosity. You should see this, but don't expect any major revelations.

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