Still from 1998's "The Opposite of Sex."

presumably), has skipped town with 10,000 of her sibling’s hard-earned dollars, and has blackmailed him into giving her more money by stealing his dead lover’s ashes. It’s not until she’s seen kissing some random guy after the gay half-brother’s ex-boyfriend goes to work that she’s deemed a human tabloid. God knows we were already uttering such a remark long before that, though.

 

Dedee also happens to be our narrator, and her voiceover contains a knowing wickedness that somehow lacks self-awareness. She's intelligent, but she doesn’t seem to know how to do much else besides stir up trouble, as if she insinuates herself into the lives of others just to fuck them up. Whether she likes the process of causing mini-earthquakes is unknown, but what we do know is that this tart, despite looking like trailer trash disguised as a big girl and speaking like a snarky Tina Fey heroine, carries herself like, what do you know, an insecure 16-year-old.

 

But she wants the world to believe she knows exactly what she’s doing, which is, mostly, in the name of unjustified evil. In the film’s first few moments, it’s revealed that her stepfather has just died. But she doesn’t care, going as far as throwing a couple foldable chairs on top of his casket as it’s lowered into the grave.

 

She hates her town (“Creve Coeur, Louisiana, which is French, I think, for like, ‘fucked heart’”), her mom (“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!'”), and her life. So she decides she’s going to take it upon herself to attempt to grow up. She does this by showing up at her half-brother Bill’s doorstep, hoping he’ll take her in.

 

But from the moment she walks into the foyer of his suburban home, she seems poised to mess things up. She immediately is attracted to Bill’s lover, Matt, and immediately cannot stand Bill’s dead lover’s sister, Lucia (Lisa Kudrow), who's decided to hover after her brother’s demise. So she does exactly what was mentioned earlier, leading Bill and Lucia (pronounced Loo-sha, not Looch-eea) on a cross-country trip to try to stop the teen from tangling her life — and theirs — up even more than she already has.

 

With Dedee’s narration so snappy, containing the movie’s best lines, we wish The Opposite of Sex were as quick as she — or, at least, the film’s first 20 minutes — were. Though its premise is ripe for the kind of knee-slapping, misanthropic comedy not unlike the kind best put forth by Matthew Bright’s Freeway (1996), its acid-dipped edges smooth the more it drags on. It gets a little too emotional, and a little too much like an average dysfunctional family drama, to keep the characteristics we like so much intact. We take to it most when it works like a tabloid story making fun of itself.

 

But when it works, it works. The narration is whip-smart, and the performances carry just the right balance of pure farcicality and actual heart. (Kudrow, as the spinster who plays like a more balanced version of her Phoebe Buffay, is a hoot, and Ricci, as a narcissistic brat, is terrific.) But any movie with a first half-hour this compactly funny better not lose its hammering wit. Problem is, The Opposite of Sex does. B-

DIRECTED BY

Don Roos

 

STARRING

Christina Ricci

Martin Donovan

Lisa Kudrow

Ivan Sergei

Lyle Lovett

Johnny Galecki

 

RATED

R

 

RELEASED IN

1998

 

RUNNING TIME

1 Hr., 41 Mins.

The Opposite of Sex August 22, 2017        

y God, she’s a human tabloid!” a character exclaims sometime during the middle act of black comedy The Opposite of Sex (1998). When we digest everything we’ve witnessed until that point, we decide that that character isn’t so wrong. They’re talking about Dedee Truitt (Christina Ricci), a sexed-up 16-year-old a couple millimeters away from having to chat with Maury Povich and the trio of men she’s wronged. Consider: She’s seduced her gay half-brother’s (Martin Donovan) boyfriend (Ivan Sergei), has gotten pregnant (by the boyfriend,

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