The Opposite of Sex

USA 1998

Film still for The Opposite of Sex

Reviewed by Andy Medhurst


Our synopses give away the plot in full, including surprise twists.

Teenager Dedee Truitt runs away from her Louisiana home, helped by her boyfriend Randy. She goes to Indiana to see her schoolteacher half-brother Bill, who lives with boyfriend Matt but is still grieving over his dead lover Tom. Dedee seduces Matt, confirming the low opinion already held of her by Lucia, Tom's sister. Telling Matt she is pregnant by him, Dedee persuades him to steal $10,000 from Bill and run away with her to LA.

Jason, a jealous ex-lover of Matt's, is so angered by Matt's departure he accuses Bill falsely of sexual harassment. Bill is suspended and becomes the target of local hostility. To try and clear his name, he goes to LA with Lucia in search of Dedee and Matt. They are followed by Carl, a sheriff from Indiana who secretly loves Lucia. Bill finds them, but Dedee tries further extortion, threatening to destroy Tom's ashes (which she had stolen earlier). Though she has married Matt, Randy (the baby's real father) reappears and runs off with Dedee. Carl and Lucia become closer. Randy and Dedee have a violent row and she accidentally shoots and kills him.

Matt and Dedee are reunited and flee to Canada. They enlist Jason for another blackmail attempt on Bill, but Bill refuses to pay and instead sets off after them, followed by Lucia and Carl. At the Canadian hideaway, Bill and Matt are reconciled but agree to part. Dedee almost dies giving birth, but both mother and baby survive. Dedee gives the baby to Bill while she does time in jail. Carl and the now-pregnant Lucia are an item and Bill finds romance with Dedee's parole officer. After her release, Dedee plans to venture off alone, but seems to hesitate...


A potent cocktail of scandalous comedy and challenging sexual politics, The Opposite of Sex is a delight on every conceivable level. It falls short of perfection only by failing to include a few spikey dykes. The story twists and hisses like a rattlesnake, the dialogue is almost arrogantly smart and sharp, the values it espouses deliver a stinging slap in the kisser to every brand of moralising conservatism. And amid a uniformly excellent cast there is a central performance of jaw-dropping virtuosity from Christina Ricci, who with this film establishes herself as beyond question the finest actor of her generation. In her awesomely mature hands (she was only 17 when the film was made), Dedee becomes so much more than the monster she might have been. She's a streetwise vigilante in the sex wars, lashing out not from abstract vindictiveness but because that's how to survive in a world run by dumb men who keep their brains in their pants. Dedee is fully aware that her white-trash background means her intelligence will never be taken seriously, so she determines to succeed by unconventional means.

Writer-director Don Roos is clearly besotted with Dedee, to the extent that the film visibly droops when she's off-screen. He gives her lines so blissfully barbed that they draw blood every time. Many of these, in the film's biggest formal gamble, are in the form of Dedee's teasing, deceiving voice-over which toys with audience expectations much as Dedee toys with men. She lays out the whole story before us, warning early on that, "I don't have a heart of gold and I don't grow one later," tricking us with false sequences that are then corrected by what 'really' happened, and issuing splendidly biased pronouncements on life, love and interior design. At one glorious point she tells women in the audience that if their boyfriends groaned at a gay male kiss, then they're most likely closet cases themselves. No wonder, despite the film's unsparing humour at the expense of certain homosexual sensitivities, the American gay audience has elevated Ricci to heroine status.

It isn't entirely a one-woman show. Lisa Kudrow dispels the suspicion that nobody from Friends can act outside the confines of that sitcom, turning Lucia into an impressively complex character. She memorably labels Dedee "the human tabloid", before her icy, snobbish anxieties are softened by circumstance. Her admission to Bill that she fears giving in to emotions is the film's best Ricci-free scene. Ivan Sergei captures Matt's essence as someone so widely regarded as gorgeous he never needs to turn his brain on, while Johnny Galecki (Darlene's put-upon boyfriend in Roseanne) whines and snipes as an irresistibly weaselly blackmailer, perfectly pinpointing the snide petulance of a certain type of smalltown queen. The film scores a probable first in having one of its important plot developments hinge on his body piercings.

The film's moral centre, as opposed to the amoral earthquake epicentred in Ricci, is Bill, who could have been one of those sexlessly dull gay men Hollywood deems a 'positive image'. Happily Martin Donovan steers judiciously past that trap, demonstrating by his response to neighbourhood prejudice just how mealy-mouthed In & Out really was. When bricks come through his window, he turns them into a rockery. Way to go, girl, as I believe they say on Ricki Lake. He even gets to end up in the film's concluding romantic couple, a telling example of just how brazenly this film sets out its political stall. Queers stay happy, marriage is just a label, the only rules that matter are the ones that suit you and your loved ones, and preachy Christians end up shot dead - not a bad message for a mainstream film. Stir into that brew the phenomenal Ricci and you have not only the most fabulous film I've seen since The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert but also the best riposte to Tony Blair's 'focus on the family' imaginable.


David Kirkpatrick
Michael Besman
Don Roos
Director of Photography
Hubert Taczanowski
David Codron
Production Designer
Michael Clausen
Mason Daring
©Rysher Entertainment, Inc.
Production Companies
A Sony Pictures Classics release of a Rysher Entertainment presentation of a David Kirkpatrick/Michael Bosman production
Executive Producers
Jim Lotfi
Steve Danton
Production Co-ordinator
Andrew J. Sacks
Unit Production Manager
Jim Lotfi
Location Manager
Kai Ephron
Post-production Supervisor
David Codron
Assistant Directors
Steve Danton
Susan Hellman
Script Supervisor
Rebecca Robertson
Amanda Mackey Johnson
Cathy Sandrich
Joyce Kurtz
Joyce's Voices
Los Angeles Associate:
Liz Lang
New York Associate:
Mercedes Danforth
Steadicam Operator
Kenneth Ferro
Set Designer
Andrew Reeder
Set Decorator
Kristin V. Peterson
Costume Designer
Peter Mitchell

Costume Supervisor
Shawn Barry
Key Make-up Artist
Sergio Lopez-Rivera
Key Hair Stylist
Daniel Curet
Titles Design
Peter Soikkeli
Duke Levine
Electric Bass:
Paul Bryan
Billy Novick
Acoustic Bass:
Marshall Wood
Bill Reynolds
Chris Neville
Laura Ahlbeck
Stuart Schulman
Dave Harris
Greg Hopkins
Mason Daring
Shane Koss
Swing Orchestration
Billy Novick
String Orchestration
Dana Bratton
Music Supervisor
Randy Gerston
Music Editor
Brent Brooks
Music Co-ordinator
Amy Rosen
Music Recordist/Mixer
Dave Shacter
"Lookin' for Love" by Hank Hunter, Stan Vincent, produced/arranged by Mason Daring, performed by Jeanie Stahl; "Pilot Mode" by/performed by Mason Daring; "For Another Clown" by/performed by Shane Koss, Adrian Hierholzer
Sound Supervisor
Trevor Jolly
Production Sound Mixer
Jon Ailetcher
Additional Audio
Kim Waugh

Re-recording Mixers
Gerry Lentz
J. Stanley Johnston
Eric Flickinger
Dialogue Editors
Trevor Jolly
André Bacha
Arthur Farkas
Sound Effects Editors
Scott Sanders
Frank Gaeta
Mark Choi
David Spybrook
Ron Bedrosian
Jackson Schwartz
Kimaree Long
Catherine Harper
James Moriana
David Alstadter
Stunt Co-ordinator
Gary Wayton
Christina Ricci
Dedee Truitt
Martin Donovan
Bill Truitt
Lisa Kudrow
Lucia Dalury
Lyle Lovett
Sheriff Carl Tippett
Johnny Galecki
Jason Bock
William Lee Scott
Ivan Sergei
Matt Matteo
Megan Blake
Colin Ferguson
Tom Dalury
Dan Bucatinsky
Chauncey Leopardi
Rodney Eastman
Heather Fairfield
Amy Atkins
TV reporter
Leslie Grossman
girl student
Emily Newman
Harrison Young
medical examiner
Pancho Demmings
police officer
Terry L. Rose
Harley man
Richard Moore
Harley man 2
Susan Leslie
Judy Zale, policewoman
Margaux St. Ledger
Leslie Bevis
World News reporter
Nicole Tocantins
Bobette's lawyer
Becky Wahlstrom
Peter Spears
Doctor Allen
Kristine Keever
David Phelps-Williams
school principal
Todd Eckert
parole office
Joyce Kurtz
Linda O. Cook
Malcolm Groome
Tim Dornberg
Robert Clotworthy
Tina Hart
group voices
Columbia TriStar Films (UK)
9,081 feet
100 minutes 54 seconds
Colour by
Last Updated: 20 Dec 2011