The Center of the World
WHAT'S IT ABOUT?
A nerdy dotcom millionaire pays a stripper $10,000 to spend three nights with him in Las Vegas. She agrees but only under three conditions: no kissing, no talking about feelings and no penetration. Huh? And he agrees! Once in Vegas, the teasing begins and let me tell you...it never stops. Oh yeah, and I guess there's some deeper message about how computers and the high-tech jobs of today are making us less "human" and how fantasies, power and money play into all that, but honestly...you won't give a crap.
IS IT A GOOD MOVIE?
There are two words which are quoted on the box for this movie: "hot" and "erotic". I think they actually misspelled those words as they should have been written as: "pretentious" and "boring". I never thought that the day would come that the subject of sex in a movie would bore me stiff-less, but this movie did just that. Not only was it slow and pointless, but it featured two extremely uninteresting characters caught up in an idiotic sex scenario, in which one pays the other to tease and nothing else. And yes, that takes about an hour and a half with little character development on either side, save for some tedious "small talk". Sure, the actors in the movie are pretty good, but the sex scenes are really just cold and lifeless, and the overall impact of the movie was almost as powerful as a dust-bunny. I can't believe that this is the second "experimental" sex movie this year (the other being DANCING AT THE BLUE IGUANA) which manages to showcase extremely lame characters set in a world which should generally excite and titillate (strip joints and Vegas).
All we get here is a rich nerd trying to get his rocks off in a very inane manner, a drummer/stripper girl who exploits him for it and a side-plot featuring Carla Gugino coming in to make out with the girl at some point, and leave (any reason why we didn't see her nekkid!?). In the meantime, we get umpteen shots of Molly Parker nude and Peter Sarsgaard showing us his ass and penis. Woo-hoo...how artsy...how deep....ugh! The film also shows the vagina of another stripper (a woman who has no lines in the film or any valid reason to show it-- other than to create controversy) which is why the MPAA decided not to give this film a rating upon release. Yeah, that's right...that move creates controversy, controversy makes people want to see a movie, people seeing this lame-ass movie makes Artisan more money! Well, please let me save you the dough. This movie is plotless, features unsympathetic characters humping and bumping but rarely doing the real nasty, cheap director tricks like B&W footage, digital steady-cam and sex that is goddamn boring! I would suggesting renting a real porno if you want a better story.
The disc features a select scene commentary track by director Wayne Wang and post-production consultant Patrick Lindenmaier, which comes close to matching the boredom of the film, but doesn't reach that height completely. To be fair, the track is completely technical and discusses almost nothing about the movie's plotline or characters. All they do is talk about the different cameras that they used, the set-ups, the lighting, etc... If that's your bag, this might interest you, otherwise...skip it entirely. Incidentally, "select scene" in this case is seven chapters over which the duo discuss various technicalities about the film. "Behind the Cyberscenes" is a 5-minute featurette about the making of the "Center of the World" website. It's actually a little more interesting than the film because Wang apparently shot some new footage of a stripper specifically for the site, and as a webmaster myself, I appreciate that sort of involvement in the Net by a movie director. They basically tried to give folks the "strip joint experience" online, but did they know that there a zillion other real porn sites out there that do the same thing, and offer even more!
The DVD also features two alternate endings, which aren't really "alternate" as much as they are the same ending for both, but with the scenes jumbled around. I preferred the one that the film already had because it left certain things unsaid, and in a movie that doesn't offer many answers in the first place, why give it all up in the end? Director Wang also offers a commentary in this section about the endings and about the infamous "vagina" scene which put the film in hot water, and to be honest, I didn't buy his "reasons" for leaving it in. He tries to make it an "artistic" choice, but the truth is that he could have put a similar scene in the film without crossing the lines, but in that case, the film wouldn't have the controversy which it obviously seeked. The menus are animated and pretty sexy, and the teaser and trailer of the film both look 100% better than the actual movie. The disc also offers a DVD-ROM area in which you can listen to music samples from the film's soundtrack.
Even though this film features Vegas and sex, I can honestly recommend that everyone stay away from this experimental dud. I wish that they had done something with the interesting premise and the good actors in this movie, but all it does is move slowly, insert idiotic conversations into the mix every now and then, and feature plenty of sexual teasing, which bored me, to be frank. The extras are pretty decent for anyone who is interested in the movie, but the commentary track is another disappointment because all it does is discuss the technical aspects of the movie (how many people really care about that?). Skip it.