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Sex, Lies, and Videotape
BLU-RAY disk
12.01.2009 By: J.A. Hamilton
Sex, Lies, and Videotape order
Director:
Steven Soderbergh

Actors:
James Spader
Andie MacDowell
Peter Gallagher

Rating:
Movie:
Extras:
Overall:

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WHAT'S IT ABOUT?
A woman (whose husband is sleeping with her sister) is in therapy with an obviously troubled marriage. This all changes when her husband’s eccentric childhood friend rolls into town for a visit with a video camera and lots of tapes.
IS IT A GOOD MOVIE?
SEX, LIES, AND VIDEOTAPE was a flick that was known to me since I was a kid (mainly because the title made it sound like a slick, soft core porn movie), but I was never enticed enough to pick it up and watch it. That said, like most late eighties fare, watching it now (especially for the first time) makes it a little trickier to review with an open mind. I’m a big fan of writer/director Steven Soderbergh’s work (SOLARIS, OUT OF SIGHT, TRAFFIC), and my hat’s off to the guy for putting together a vividly real account of marriage, lust and seduction without ever going overboard or pushing the envelope too far.

The eighties and nineties were infamous for films about sex and adultery. Films like this one tread far more carefully, and in my opinion explore the psychosis involved over an array of gratuitous nudity. I like the story here, much like I did with INDECENT PROPOSAL. Both revolve around a set of empathetic characters that could easily be you, me or just about anyone, which I believe is ninety percent of the appeal. Unlike later flicks such as BASIC INSTINCT (coincidentally I think I see where Sharon Stone got the idea for her classic interrogation scene), which took things in a whole different direction.

I’ve always liked James Spader, and was surprised when he suddenly dropped off the face of the planet out of the blue (that is until my mom asked me to buy her the first couple seasons of BOSTON LEGAL for Christmas one year). His character was an oddball for sure, one who watched FLATLINERS a few too many times at that, but he was far more entertaining that watching CALIFORNICATION’s “Dean Koontz”. I would further like to add that a film revolving around “sex” (or at least the idea of sex), should feature hot women. Laura San Giacomo wasn’t hard to look at here, but Andie MacDowell? No thanks.

SEX, LIES, AND VIDEOTAPE was no doubt a provocative, thought invoking piece of cinema that got people whispering behind closed doors back in the day. But nowadays, with this angle having been worn out like a cheap crack whore, I found myself struggling to stay awake. To be completely fair, this is not a bad film and is no doubt a celebrated experience on Blu-ray for fans that were weaned on it. Just don’t expect to be “wowed” out of your seat if you’re sitting down with it for the first time like I was, because you’ll no doubt be waiting for a climax that just doesn’t come.
THE EXTRAS
Commentary with Writer/Director Steven Soderbergh and Neil Labute: This is a rather lame back and forth between two buddy directors who both over analyze the shit out of everything, which will have you snoring in no time. I’m more a fan of commentaries that include at least one or more of the actors involved.

20 Year Reunion at the Sundance Film Festival: This felt awkward to me as Steven reunites with three of the four cast members (James Spader wasn’t there). That seems like a big kick in the nuts to me.

Deleted Scene: One lonely scene (which optional commentary) where Ann tells her therapist that she thinks she no longer needs therapy. Not a pivotal scene, but it could have stayed in.

Steven Soderbergh on the Trailers: Soderbergh explains the back and forth with Miramax over his and their initial trailer ideas, and then shows us both. The end result (Miramax’s) was far flashier and makes you more curious about the film.

Steven Soderbergh on Sex, Lies, and Videotape: Steven shares his thought process and explains the message he was trying to get across. He does agree with my impression however, being that this film was a slap in the face way back when but is a touch dated now.

Notes on Re-mastering and Restoring: A very brief overview of how the film was re-mastered, and the process behind it. And a grueling process it is.

Previews: A peculiar mix of five older and newer trailers. I’ve never watched A RIVER RUNS THROUGH IT. There’s also some BD-Live content if you can hook up to the internet.
FINAL DIAGNOSIS
There’s definitely substance here, but it’s nothing you haven’t already seen a hundred times before. Eighties flicks have tremendous appeal and become timeless masterpieces if you enjoyed them when they first came out. If not, they’re pretty easy to pass on.

Extra Tidbit: A smooth customer would have left the camera out for all the ladies to see, but the box of tapes labeled with various female names in a hallowed out air conditioner like Dexter. Amateurs.
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