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Overall Rating

Worth A Look: 30.61%
Average: 16.33%
Pretty Bad: 8.16%
Total Crap: 10.2%

3 reviews, 31 user ratings

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sex, lies, and videotape
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by Chris Parry

"What do you call a ménage-a-trois when it involves four people?"
3 stars

An old friend rolls into town with a convertible, a blonde mullet, and a trunk full of video equipment. You invite him in to stay a few days and before long everyone is masturbating on camera for him. If you were to break Sex Lies and Videotape down to two sentences, you’d have it right there. Fortunately, quality feature films generally require more than two sentences to be told, and a Steven Soderbergh feature film can sometimes take hours to explain.

James Spader has a problem, and a camera. Peter Gallagher has a problem, and a wife. Andy MacDowell has two problems in that she’s way uptight and married to Peter Gallagher. And Laura San Giacomo is Gallagher’s problem, and MacDowell’s sister, and married to nobody. Confused? Well chill a second and we’ll explore a little deeper.

Spader plays a long lost friend of Gallagher’s, back home after many years away. He’s a little weird, but Gallagher ain’t no saint himself. Gallagher’s wife isn’t comfortable with the strange man around, but she’s a little turned on by him, which is odd since A) his wiener has no life in it, and B) Andy’s frigid as a three month frozen Popsicle. Her sister, on the other hand, is looser than the wheel nuts on a Ford Explorer - take her for a turn around the parking lot and she’ll be flat on her back in no time at all.

What does it all mean? Well, we could decide that it’s a study about repression, lies and using sex as emotion, or we could say it’s a story about how everyone is fucked up in their own special way, or we could say it’s a PG-13 skin-flick where no skin is actually shown, or we could say, as I do, that it’s an interesting ninety minutes spent seeing where Soderbergh came from.

The story just isn’t riveting stuff, nor is the message particularly that important. Is anything major revealed? Are we held privy to a breakout performance or three? Andie MacDowell certainly shows she’s respected as an actress for a reason, and Spader doesn’t give off a speck of ‘B grade’, despite the fact that he’s fast heading towards C grade most of the time. Gallagher and San Giacomo are, at best, underwritten and under-performed.

Nah, I don’t think we’re missing anything here; it’s simply ninety minutes of sexual tension with little pay-off. Maybe I’m missing some immense point here, but I tend to think the director behind such subtle messages as those in Traffic, Erin Brockovich and Oceans Eleven just couldn’t find the big finish that he needed in the end.

By all means, an interesting ninety minutes, just not a great ninety.

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originally posted: 04/02/02 13:18:55
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User Comments

2/23/17 morris campbell cerebral and sexy peepshow crowd wont like it 4 stars
2/12/17 Louise Insightful, understated and gently atmospheric. A delight. 5 stars
4/29/10 name can you do thi for me, 2 stars
3/19/07 Mick Jacking-off to women talking has never looked this cool! 5 stars
11/12/06 Marcus Utterly boring drivel about boring little people in smalltown USA. 1 stars
8/22/06 Carol Baker Another romantic drama where everybody cheats everybody else. Especially Peter Gallagher 3 stars
8/14/06 Sepi53 Overrated, boring POS 1 stars
10/10/05 Agent Sands Soderbergh goes on to make fucking GREAT movies, but first makes this fucking GOOD movie. 4 stars
5/29/05 Jake Pretty good 4 stars
5/15/05 Indrid Cold Quite overrated. Is it supposed to be devestatingly insightful or something? 3 stars
4/30/05 Chris Stephens Good indie flick 4 stars
4/09/05 Tanya Grays I like any James Spader movie 5 stars
3/31/05 Cindy Sheeks This was the film that made me sit up and take notice of James Spader. He was wonderful. 5 stars
1/02/05 Daveman The best of Steven Soderbergh;s films next to Traffic, performances are spot on. 4 stars
6/14/04 MyGreenBed Quintessential indie flick of the next generation (late-80's/early-90's). Spader is superb. 4 stars
4/05/04 Me A POS from the start. Boring drivel, and unused T &A. An absolute waste of celluloid. 1 stars
9/27/03 Mr. Hat Insightful, mostly well-directed. Good acting and OK sexiness. 4 stars
6/05/03 pete samplist excellent character dynamics 5 stars
3/03/03 Jack Sommersby A wee bit incomplete, but most of it's mesmerizing. Spader is brilliant. 4 stars
2/21/03 R.W. Welch One tends to nod off, but of what I recall.... 2 stars
4/30/02 Angela A movie that is erotic, because it makes you think about sex, without actually seeing any 5 stars
4/05/02 Scott Sumner Only thing that was gripping about this P.O.S was me gripping the exit door handle..... 1 stars
4/02/02 Roy Smith Wasted 90 minutes with four characters I grew to hate even more as the movie went on. 2 stars
4/02/02 Klute What am I missing here? 2 stars
1/10/02 Andrew Carden It's Intriguing and Very Powerful. 5 stars
10/22/01 Yasemin you have to see this movie 5 stars
7/19/01 Ryan Brilliant 5 stars
10/30/00 hbergeron hugely overratted by a good director 1 stars
10/29/00 Walter Gaede Subtle and gripping. See it more than once to catch all the nuances. 5 stars
3/28/00 JonnyAngel Awesome movie 5 stars
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  02-Aug-1989 (R)



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