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The Center of the World

Starring Peter Sarsgaard and Molly Parker; Carla Gugino
Screenplay by Wayne Wang, Miranda July, Paul Aster and Siri Hustvedt
Directed by Wayne Wang

IN SHORT: Nothing but a tease. [Not Rated. 86 minutes]

Let us note that, at the current high tech edge of indie film writing collaboration, it took four people to come up with: "Oh God you're so wet!"as a line of dialog having nothing to do with rainstorms thundering down from the heavens and drowning every remaining speck of life that could possibly evolve to the level of the creative folk who created Center of the World.

Then again, there is a school of movie making which holds that film should endeavor to recreate real life as closely as possible. The dialog should be ultrarealistic and should offer only as much background information as would occur in natural conversation. This is where Center of the World seems to come from, IMHO. Actors love to do these kind of scripts because it forces them to call on all their abilities to convey emotions and the unspoken background solely through their actions. The net result is that, when all is said and done, you and your film student pals (sic) can retire to Starbucks and discuss what really motivated the character's actions as seen on screen. We call that "making the audience do all the work" and don't particularly care for it.

Richard Longman (Peter Sarsgaard) has been krazy glued in front of a bank of computer screens for a year, conceptualizing some concept that will make him a multimillionaire many times over, once the company he works for (and owns 18% of) floats its IPO. Needing some time off, he heads for the local lapdance establishment to see the performance of a woman he has met sometime before. We don't know where or when. This is an important point which we will return to in a 'graph or two.

Florence (Molly Parker) is a drummer in a rock and roll band. Whacking them skins may be satisfying, but it don't pay the rent. Getting naked and doing things with a lollypop (that would get this movie an NC-17 rating if it had been submitted to the Ratings Board) does. Flo also commands the rate of $60 for a lapdance (2 songs -- that's three times the going rate in New York City where we don't allow full nudity. Or so I've been told...) and won't even consider the ten grand Richard is offering for a weekend in Las Vegas. She is not a whore. She will not put out for a customer and she puts it in writing when he says name your terms.

We note that a flashback establishes that this couple met before Richard knew what Florence did for the rent. That makes Flo's "not dating a customer" point moot, as far as we're concerned. When details this trivial catch our attention, it's a sure sign that the story isn't holding that attention, either.

There are three ways this film can go from that point. It goes down two of 'em. But while you figure out what the hell that could mean, we'll mention the presence of her friend Jerri (Carla Gugino) who is a kept woman (if not a high priced prostitute) and whose presence forces Florence to confront her possible hypocrisy. It also sets up a possible menage a trois which, given what we saw Florence do with a lollypop early in the movie, we expected to see. Gugino was sexier in Spy Kids. One film has nothing to do with the other but if you've been enticed by advertising or teevee entertainment shows promoting this "controversial" movie, you've been teased and taken.

A couple of months ago, the Korean film Lies tried to pass itself off as a story of a man in moral and sexual crisis when said story was a mere excuse to shoot hardcore porn and one sexual act not even seen in your standard XXX film. Center of the World, and the meaning of the title is a four letter word which we can't print here 'cuz there are parents out there, begins with a hard core tease and doesn't have the guts to follow it up. Yes there are sex scenes, lots of 'em, but nothing that will keep your interest.

On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Eight Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to The Center of the World, he would have paid...


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