“This is Creve Coeur, Louisiana… which is French, I think, for like, ‘fucked heart’.”
The Opposite of Sex (1998)
Directed & Written By: Don Roos
Starring: Christina Ricci, Lisa Kudrow, Martin Donovan, Lyle Lovett, Johnny Galecki, Ivan Sergei, William Scott Lee
I don’t know what it is about this movie, but it keeps bringing me back for more. The Opposite of Sex stands as one of very few all out comedies within my home movie collection. It’s difficult for me to compare this to any other film. It’s obviously indie in spirit, but, apart from that, it’s difficult for me to really offer a film that compares, because this isn’t even your typical indie film.
Christina Ricci stars as DeDee Truitt, a wise-cracking, terribly judgmental, fairly naïve, but also a totally sexually mature and intelligent sixteen year-old. Gone are the days of Casper and Wendy for Miss Ricci. This film really marks the beginning of her great, great, great indie success. Ricci is so good in this film that, at my age, I can only feel sorry for myself for not being able to be this brilliant.
Throughout the film, the viewer is witness to the quippy, horrifyingly funny narration of Ricci’s character. This narration is truly what carries the unique tone of the film along. DeDee says things like, “Les was a real asshole. To get cancer of the ass was, like, poetic. Almost as good as cancer of the dick, if they have that” or “I know in movies you kind of feel sorry for girls like this, but in real life, you wouldn’t be sitting next to her either” or “If there have to be gay people, at least it’s nice there’s enough of them to go around.” You don’t get this kind of stuff in just any movie, so I must take a moment to commend Don Roos (Boys on the Side and Single White Female) for some truly, Oscar-worthy writing. You just can’t hate DeDee, no matter how hard you try. No matter how horrible she is toward the people around her, you know that she’s smart and you love her for that, even if she does more or less warn the audience throughout the film that she is smarter than they are.
So the film begins with DeDee living in Louisiana with her mother, of whom she hates. DeDee says, “My mother was the kind of mother who always said she was her daughter’s best friend. Whenever she did, I thought, ‘Great! Not only do I have a shitty mother, but my best friend’s a loser bitch!’” You get my point, but I can’t stop quoting this film. DeDee wants out and devises a plan to escape. She meets up with her half-brother Bill (Martin Donovan) in Indiana. Bill lives in a real beauty of a house with his new male lover, Matt (Ivan Sergei). A little over a year ago, Bill lost his lover, Tom, to AIDs and inherited all of his money and then Matt came along. Bill works as a teacher. Matt works for the UPS.
DeDee begs Bill to let her stay with him and then she seduces Matt, telling him that he’s not gay, he’s not bi; he’s only been waiting for a real woman to come along all his life.
And then they bang. And then DeDee reveals to him that she is pregnant. This is all a part of her plan, though. Truth is, she got knocked up by a one-balled, Christian in Louisiana named Randy (William Scott Lee). Matt comes into the picture now, because DeDee wants a real man to help her raise the child in Los Angeles where she feels the child will be better off.
Matt and DeDee sit down and tell the news to Bill and Tom’s sister, Lucia (Lisa Kudrow). During the conversation, Lucia tells her to get an abortion and Matt balks, telling Bill and Lucia that he intends to marry and help her raise the child. Bill doesn’t want to talk about it anymore. And then DeDee smokes a cigarette.
Soon enough, Matt and DeDee book it for LA, stealing $10,000 (and Tom’s ashes) from Bill. In the meantime, Bill’s heart breaks and a former student, Jason (Johnny Galecki), blackmails Bill and gets him into a school sex scandal. Lucia’s inherent feelings for Bill heighten. And the cop in charge of Bill’s case, Carl (Lyle Lovett), holds increasing feelings for Lucia.
As you can see, things have gotten messy, but DeDee did warn us about that at the beginning of the film, of course. Lucia and Bill take off for LA in search of Matt. Things get further complicated when Randy shows up and begins a secret affair with DeDee outside of her relationship with Matt, who is now working at a fast food restaurant.
All these people can only make a situation like this hit explosive heights. And the situation does hit those heights, but, then again, DeDee did tell us in the beginning that her grabbing a gun to take to Indiana was foreshadowing (duh!).
There is nothing unrealistic or fantastical about this film. This is honest filmmaking at its finest and DeDee’s narrative details really help offer the truly human quality. Things are totally and utterly politically incorrect throughout this film, but that offers the audience the honesty that you don’t always see in other films. We see the taboo (gay sex, AIDs, abortion, domestic abuse) all uncovered, but that makes for a truly fascinating viewing experience.
The Opposite of Sex is an incredibly smart film that has surely been overlooked due to its indie cred, but I think it’s worth talking about. In the gay community, I’ve become witness to the fact that a lot of us have films in common. We all like Brokeback Mountain and Philadelphia and Far From Heaven and The Hours and, well, of course, “Queer as Folk,” but what about this one? Are we afraid of DeDee’s apparent homophobia? Or is she actually not homophobic? It could be that she is only judgmental for the sake of being judgmental. Truth is, the film does hold some stereotypes, but which piece of gay cinema doesn’t? Stereotypes do, a lot of times, hold a certain amount of truth and, as I’ve stated, this is an honest film where the stereotypes do come off as trustworthy and believable…and pretty fucking funny. Even when DeDee is going off on the gays, this film ultimately offers a certain lightheartedness to the gay experience. It’s pokes fun, but not too much fun. And that’s why I love it.
It’s really very admirable and I think it’s worth a gay viewing. You see a lot of sides of sex and love in heterosexual and homosexual settings. It’s an orgy of all these emotions and it really does ultimately say something profound about the truth of the homosexual experience.
But I’ll let you figure that out. That’s what DeDee would say.
Oh! And one more line:
Lucia: “Are you having contractions?”
DeDee: “No, this is my sleepy face! WHAT THE FUCK DO YOU THINK?”