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The Independent Culture

As casually evil teen-vamp Dedee Truitt, Christina Ricci delivers a performance untarnished by cuteness, providing in spades the edginess that this glib farce so nakedly craves. As in the repellent As Good As It Gets, the humour in Don Roos's first feature is of the "politically incorrect" variety - Dedee's acid tongue offends on cue - but the movie, only sporadically funny, has an exaggerated sense of its own shock value. The insistent rudeness is also something of a disingenuous pose, a fashionably bitter coating for a blandly sweet centre. Too awkwardly paced to pass for screwball, the story stumbles along fairly predictably. When Dedee moves in with her gay half-brother Bill (Martin Donovan), she immediately sets to seducing his obtuse, mannequin-like new boyfriend, Matt (Ivan Sergei). Announcing that she's pregnant, she then makes off with Matt, a stash of Bill's money, and his late lover's ashes - much to the annoyance of the deceased's sister, embittered schoolmarm Lucia (a dowdy Lisa Kudrow). Imaginatively cast, The Opposite of Sex is distinguished by fine performances across the board - surprising since every character is, as written, a borderline cartoon. Kudrow matches comic spark with unexpected gravity in a thankless role. Ricci's voiceover - a sarcastic commentary flecked with self-reflexive taunts ("This part where I take the gun? It's like, duh, important.") - is a grating gimmick, run into the ground. Ricci, fearless as ever, has the nerve to remain unsympathetic, which ultimately is more than the film could handle.


Scripted by the dread Ron Bass and "four" other writers, and directed in a typically slick and faceless fashion by Chris Columbus, this brazenly manipulative illness weepie concerns the competitive relationship between two women - the ex-wife (Susan Sarandon) and girlfriend (Julia Roberts) of a New York attorney (Ed Harris). When Sarandon's character develops cancer, she has to teach the younger woman how to care for her children, and their antagonism softens into Terms of Endearment-style bonding. The two leads are watchable enough but, immersed as they are in one predictably phoney situation after another, they're unable to give the film the emotional credibility it needs.