X is for SeX, Lies, and Videotape, a film from 1989. It was nominated for Best Original Screenplay at the Academy Awards. Written by Steven Soderbergh, it lost to Dead Poets Society that year. If you’re an intelligent person who is not afraid of sensitive subjects, you may enjoy this finely acted film. This is an adults only movie, and is rated R. There isn’t much sexual activity in the film, but there is a lot of talk about sex. It’s a morality tale about double standards and the secrets that intimates keep from one another.
Ann Mullany (Andie MacDowell) lives with her husband John (Peter Gallagher) in what seems to be an average sized city in Louisiana. Ann’s sister Cynthia Bishop (Laura San Giacomo) lives nearby, and works as a bartender. The two sisters are polar opposites: Ann a repressed housewife, and Cynthia a free spirit.
John is an attorney, an adulterer, and a liar (like some members of Congress). His friend from college, Graham Dalton (James Spader), comes for a visit and is the catalyst for many changes within this strange family.
John is having an affair with Cynthia. Ann is in therapy and discloses to her shrink the details of her seemingly dying relationship with her husband. Graham has a strange hobby being an amateur filmmaker of sorts. He interviews women, not just about anything, but about their sexual histories. It all shakes loose when Cynthia introduces herself to Graham, and he videotapes her. Secrets should be thrown into the title of the film as well as lies, as there are plenty of clandestine thoughts and actions going on.
This is an interesting film if you enjoy stories about the human psyche. It’s almost as if Graham is a psychologist, only in a very different manner, encouraging people to talk about their innermost thoughts and feelings and about subjects they’d never discuss with any of their friends or family. He’s like a therapist, just doesn’t tell the women he interviews what to do, and shrinks sometimes tell their clients what to do. What I found interesting about Graham is that he shows such unconditional positive regard for the women and their stories. His motivations are questionable, but I wondered if the women’s intimate partners would be so accepting if they told the truth like they do with Graham.
Sex, Lies, and Videotape was directed by Steven Soderbergh, and is a groundbreaking indie film. The actors all do a great job with their roles. Peter Gallagher went on to star in the TV series, The O. C., one of my favorites, and Laura San Giacomo played Vivian’s best friend and fellow hooker in Pretty Woman, not to mention her role in the TV series, Just Shoot Me. Andie MacDowell has had a full acting career. One of my favorite films of hers is Groundhog Day, all sweetness and light, kind of like her role in this film.
Have you watched Sex, Lies, and Videotape? What did you think?