Christina Ricci stars as a conniving white trash teen in Don Roos’s black comedy The Opposite of Sex
THE OPPOSITE OF SEX (1998)
Starring Christina Ricci, Martin Donovan, Lisa Kudrow and Lyle Lovett
Written and Directed by Don Roos
Released by Sony Pictures Classics
The tagline says it all for Don Roos’s hilarious directorial debut The Opposite of Sex: “You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll be offended”. From the moment you meet anti-hero Dede Truitt (Christina Ricci) you know this chain smoking southern teen is going to be trouble.
While she may appear to be nothing more than a “human tabloid” on the outside, Ricci gives the Dede that tiny glimpse of humanity. While you often despise her, Ricci’s strong performance allows the audience to see that Dede is a girl who would rather be hated than pitied.
“Don’t worry I’m not going to be one of those people who changes and says I was never the same after that summer,” Dede tells the audience in the opening moments of the film. Dede’s narration works because her snarky attitude both helps ease the tension of some of the more dramatic moments of the film (“My stepfather getting cancer of the ass was kind of poetic”) and also helps make fun of many film clichés ( “Did you really think I died?! I’m the narrator!”).
In the first act of the film,Dede ditches her mom’s place and moves in with her estranged brother. Her brother Bill (Martin Donovan) is an English teacher (and as Dede continually points out, a big homo) with a heart of gold. Donovan may forever be known as Nancy Botwin’s crazy DEA boyfriend on Weeds, but here he showcases what a sensitive and caring character he can play. While Bill may be clueless to Dede’s intentions, his best friend Lucia (Lisa Kudrow) immediately smells that something is up the moment she moves in.
Most television actors’ film roles mirror in some way their TV counterpart, but with this and other Ross films (Happy endings, Love and other impossible pursuits) Kudrow never makes you feel like you’re watching a mutated Phoebe. Lucia rather is a lonely, angry woman who is bound to Bill through their grief for the man who Dede lovingly refers to as “Tom the dead guy.”
Tom was Lucia’s brother and she’s never quite forgiven Bill for falling in love with Tom instead of her. Now years after Tom’s death from AIDS, the two have become the depressed Indiana version of Will and Grace.
After Bill agrees to take Dede in, she promptly returns the favor by seducing his very sexy younger boyfriend Matt (Ivan Sergei). Matt is like your favorite puppy: he’s cute and if you train him properly he will do whatever you want.
When Dede ends up pregnant, Matt happily tags along as they not only steal Bill’s money but Tom the dead guy’s ashes as collateral. Sergei gives Matt the right combination of doppy cuteness and street smarts so that you can understand how Dede could have her way with him and then respect him for sticking around for the sake of the baby.
Bill and Lucia go after the couple, but not without problems of their own. A former student Jason (a hilarious Johnny Galecki) threatens to claim sexual abuse by Bill when he was a student unless he can help him track down Matt. Meanwhile, Lucia squares off with the local cop Carl (Lyle Lovett) when he starts fishing around the situation. What happens next includes sex, homophobia, murder and a trip to Canada, aka your typical setup for your basic Hollywood comedy.
What’s great about this film and other scripts by Roos is that he takes the darkest parts of human existence and somehow manages to find the humor in them. For those audiences out there who prefer to think instead of laugh at dick and fart jokes when they watch a comedy, The Opposite of Sex is your kind of film.