Criterion Collection, The | Release Date: August 4, 1989
7.8
USER SCORE
Generally favorable reviews based on 53 Ratings
USER RATING DISTRIBUTION
Positive:
41
Mixed:
8
Negative:
4
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10
JaneA.Jul 1, 2004
Brilliant. Really wonderful.
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10
NachoC.Jul 20, 2009
Wow. Soderbergh stop making big budget films, come back to writing solid screenplays and drawing the best out of actors. SLV was a fantastic film, highly recommended.
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8
PatC.Jan 19, 2004
An engrossing & unique project that seems indie in its atmosphere and construction. Like the relationships it decribes, it goes nowhere and with reckless unresistable energy. It's like Woody Allen minus the obsession for closure. It was An engrossing & unique project that seems indie in its atmosphere and construction. Like the relationships it decribes, it goes nowhere and with reckless unresistable energy. It's like Woody Allen minus the obsession for closure. It was made back when finding an answer still mattered, but when it was also an accepted alternative to minimize the importance of an answer. The sexual mindset as an expression of will is therefore implicit. Expand
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10
DavidA.Feb 21, 2005
Very impressive. Even back then, Soderbergh knew how to make awesome movies.
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8
RobertRJul 22, 2007
Sex, Lies, and Videotape is an imposingly inherent annotation on infidelity. Its four separate protagonists share affinities in their exposure to sex, one being their reluctance to completely discuss sex as a sober topic. Though it appears Sex, Lies, and Videotape is an imposingly inherent annotation on infidelity. Its four separate protagonists share affinities in their exposure to sex, one being their reluctance to completely discuss sex as a sober topic. Though it appears that Graham is the most sophomoric of the characters, his ability to comprehend sex as a momentous and frustrating force in life is a profound revelation that permits the transcendence of his character, which deepens the dimensions of Collapse
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10
MarkR.Aug 24, 2009
One of the best films I've ever seen. almost twenty years old and has lost none of its erotic and intellectual impact.
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9
ryancarroll88Aug 27, 2010
It doesn't necessarily bring anything new to the table, but provides an interesting look at sex and relationships and all the kinks in between the two. You have to give director Steven Soderbergh credit for making a movie that focusesIt doesn't necessarily bring anything new to the table, but provides an interesting look at sex and relationships and all the kinks in between the two. You have to give director Steven Soderbergh credit for making a movie that focuses completely on sex without having any actual sex scenes (or even nudity). It's also nice to see a film that deals with the subject matter so maturely without having to get Woody Allen involved. Expand
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8
SpangleJan 12, 2017
The fact that this is a debut is astounding, as is the fact that I used to not like Steven Soderbergh. Honestly, for sure a talented guy, he is often somebody I forget about, even if I enjoy his films. Years ago, my first introduction was TheThe fact that this is a debut is astounding, as is the fact that I used to not like Steven Soderbergh. Honestly, for sure a talented guy, he is often somebody I forget about, even if I enjoy his films. Years ago, my first introduction was The Informant, which I actually walked out of in theaters. That may have been a mistake, but I still need to rewatch (or fully watch) it to find out for sure. Afterwards, I watched Contagion and hated it, becoming fully convinced that he was a hack. Of course, as my recent rewatch showed, my opinion on Contagion has changed a lot. Since seeing these two long ago, I have seen and loved many of his works including Traffic, Solaris, Side Effects, Out of Sight, and I am even an apologist for his throwback 2006 bomb The Good German. Tobey Maguire may be a miss in the movie, but it is still a great take on 1940s noir, dammit! Now, this introductory paragraph exists largely because this is his first feature. Often times, watching a debut from a director whose work you enjoy proves disappointing. Sex, Lies, and Videotape, however, is not your typical work. An exploration into human sexuality with a raw, unhinged, and delightfully odd script, the film may lack the polish of his later works, but there is terrific wealth in that lack of polish.

Sex, Lies, and Videotape is about the arrival of a mysterious man, Graham (James Spader), who used to be friends in college with John (Peter Gallagher). Previously incredibly promiscuous, Graham is now impotent and only able to perform alone. As such, he videotapes women talking about sex and their history of having sex. This sometimes can get a little sensual, but Graham never actually does anything with a subject and is strict with nobody else seeing a tape. One of the women he tapes, Cynthia (Laura San Giacomo) has heard about Graham from her sister Ann (Andie MacDowell). Repulsed by his tapes, Ann tries to stop her sexually liberal sister from seeing him, but Cynthia cannot be stopped. Of course, the awkward part is that Ann is very reserved and is married to Graham's old friend John, who is now a successful lawyer. John, meanwhile, is sleeping with Cynthia who sleeps with him to get back at her older sister.

As may be clear, this creates some issues, but it really creates some odd healing. This confrontation of their approach to sex and their pasts allows the characters to really confront why they are the way that they are. For Ann, she is able to find herself and figure out why she does not enjoy sex. For Cynthia, it allows her to confront why she hates Ann and work on a worthwhile way of healing that. In the process, of course, it does show a lot about their characters. The sisters fight because they are inherently different and the other cannot accept that difference. It is also clear that Cynthia does a lot of what she does for attention, hinting at the popularity of Ann in school among the boys and, likely, her parents. Thus, it gives her a rush to know she is sleeping with Ann's husband and is better at sex than her. Via the videotapes, however, the women are able to figure this out and identify these issues. At the end, when we see Ann give Cynthia her work number and a gift, it becomes clear that the olive branch is there. Though they talked and had a relationship, they only spoke of each negatively and had terrible conversations on the phone. It is clear that the relationship is fractured and confronting what has made them who they are and driven them apart (sex), allows them to heal and work on the relationship.

This development is incredibly written by Soderbergh who creates a nuanced plot with nuanced characters that really grow throughout the film. For a debut, this is quite the accomplishment, especially with the mature way in which he handles sex. Instead of exploiting it or turning it into simple titillation, he turns it into an act worthy of psycho-therapeutic study. Of course, the strong characters and dialogue are bolstered by good performances in all roles, particularly by James Spader. As the unusual and very open Graham, Spader oozes weird yet comforting. His oddities may be a turn off to those who do not know him, but for that those do, he is an welcome part of their lives.

Incredibly written, directed, and acted, this one is a shockingly assured debut. While imperfect, the film is one that leaves you sitting there and contemplating your life in a weird way, just as the characters here are forced to assess who they are and where they are. In this film, it is an incredibly impactful film that shows Soderbergh's talent in transcending genre and creating intimate and compelling stories no matter the topic.
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