Sex, Lies & Videotape (Steven Soderbergh, 1989)


Sex Lies & Videotape
James Spader seems to have made much of his career, current Blacklist TV series notwithstanding, as sincere, earnest, charismatic weirdos. And this is right up there. Here, he plays Graham, who reappears in the life of his old college friend John (Peter Gallagher) and plays havoc with his old friend’s, already dysfunctional, family.

So, we first meet Ann (Andie MacDowell), who is undergoing therapy, as she no longer likes being touched by husband John, although he was the first to withdraw from contact, and has never really liked sex. Ann is also upset that John has invited his old friend Graham to stay without first asking her if it was ok. We then see John leaving his office to arrange a liaison with a young woman for sex. This woman turns out to be Anne’s sister Cynthia (Laura San Giacomo), who resents Ann and is having the affair with John as much to ‘get one over’ on her as to get pleasure from the sex itself.

When Graham arrives, he is far quieter and more thoughtful than Ann expected, or as John previously knew him to be. They’ve grown apart. Ann and Graham initially get on well and start to confide in one another but Ann is shocked by Graham’s ‘hobby’, videotaping women talking about sex, though Cynthia, intrigued at the possibility of another sexual partner, is far more enthusiastic.

Given its title, and subject, the film is quite tame in its depiction of sex. It isn’t intended, I think, to titillate. Rather, it’s intended to make us think about intimacy and trust, and what we want from our sexual partners.