by Jason Whyte
I've always loved director Wayne Wang's work, from a chinese family story in "The Joy Luck Club" to the awesome Brooklyn corner of "Smoke," where Auggie Wren owned the cigar shop and had his friends stopping by for hours on end to chat and light up. His style is always relaxed, but he knows what he is doing. "The Center of the World" marks his most ambitious project to date, a brutally honest adult drama about the lines between professional and personal relationships.The film originally earned an NC17 rating for its graphic depiction of sex and explicit nudity, however Artisan Films has released the film unrated, a'la "Requiem For A Dream," with the same policy: let the theaters choose how to handle admissions. I say, be careful because this film is certainly not for anyone under 17 years of age. This is a courageous and risk-taking film, while not always successful, does show some interesting angles to how love can be earned and how love can be paid for.
"Respect the Lollipop!"
Stock-broker Peter (Peter Saarsgard) has it all, a large piece of his corporation with millions of dollars, but he wants time off to feel better about himself, and winds up falling for a stripper named Molly (Molly Parker). Peter wants Molly, and offers Molly $10,000 to accompany her to Las Vegas for three days. Molly is not a prostitue, so she makes clear that no actual sex is involved, and actual performance will be limited from 10pm to 2am. During the day, Peter and Molly get along as friends, seeing the sights of Vegas and discussing their lives to each other, and then Molly turns professional at the scheduled time. It's a basic contract between the two. Peter, however, becomes more and more attracted to her personally, which turns Molly on, but both have to remember the binds of the contract.
This is a very interesting setup, and the audience keeps waiting for the other shoe to drop. Wayne Wang has wisely chose to shoot the entire film on digital video and handheld, giving a quasi-realistic look to it. Flashback scenes show completely washed-out colors and excessive noise, and current scenes use varying forms of color and lighting to accentuate the mood. This once again proves, like the recently digitized "The Anniversary Party," that DV photography is an effective technology for telling stories like this. It's not always about saving money.
Wang, who co-wrote the screenplay with Paul Auster have great writing skills. It's a shame that some of the delivery by Parker and Saarsgard really miss the mark at times, sometimes even causing unintentional humour and laughter in the audience. Saarsgard, despite being an actor of great range, is a big culprit of this; in one scene after one of Molly's friends leaves in tears, he asks "Is she alright? Is she alright?" in such an odd way. I chuckled, which was obviously not the intent.
It certainly isn't either of their faults; Parker ("Kissed," "Twitch City," "The Five Senses") is simply amazing, a fascinating, risk-taking actress who is a joy to watch every second she is on screen. Parker is a woman not afraid to show her body, which is required for a character such as this. And Saarsgarrd, who has been turning in great work as of late, is effective as Peter.This is a courageous and risk-taking film, while not always successful, does show some interesting angles to how love can be earned and how love can be paid for.
link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=5286&reviewer=350
originally posted: 06/13/04 00:19:02