The Center Of The World

A throwback to the psychosexual mind games of LAST TANGO IN PARIS (1972), this anti-erotic drama chronicles three days in the lives of a dot-com millionaire and a high-minded stripper. Brilliant programmer Richard (Peter Sarsgaard) lives through his computer ("It's like being at the center of the world," he crows), but his father's recent death has left...read more

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Reviewed by Maitland McDonagh
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A throwback to the psychosexual mind games of LAST TANGO IN PARIS (1972), this anti-erotic drama chronicles three days in the lives of a dot-com millionaire and a high-minded stripper. Brilliant programmer Richard (Peter Sarsgaard) lives through his computer ("It's like being at the center of the world," he crows), but his father's recent death has left him hungry for emotional connection. He's lost interest in the company he co-founded, ignoring his partner's pleas that he pull himself together for the crucial weeks preceding the IPO that could make them both very, very rich. Instead, Richard becomes infatuated with a woman he sees daily at a local diner; he eventually learns that her name is Florence (Molly Parker), that she's an aspiring drummer with a fledgling band, and that she supports herself by stripping at the suggestively named Pandora's Box, where dancers do nasty things with tootsie pops. Richard becomes a Pandora's Box regular, and finally works up the nerve to make an indecent proposal: He'll pay Florence $10,000 to spend three days with him in Las Vegas. At first she refuses, then changes her mind when Richard agrees to abide by her rules: Florence must have her own room, their trysts will last from 10 pm to 2 am, there will be no talk about feelings, no kissing on the mouth and absolutely no sexual intercourse. Neither anticipates the tangle of powerful and conflicting emotions in which they become enmeshed when they deviate (inevitably) from the script that was meant to control their erotic games. Richard behaves as though he's on a three-day date, convinced he can win Florence with his gentlemanly demeanor. Florence thinks she can sell herself without feeling like a whore; she even lets Richard meet her old friend Jerri (Carla Gugino), a troubled single mother whose sordid problems provoke an ugly scene. While a welcome antidote to PRETTY WOMAN fantasies about prostitution as a road to middle-class marriage, Wang's film doesn't really have anything more to say about power, manipulation and the wild unpredictability of sexual energy than LAST TANGO did 30 years ago. A warning to sneaky voyeurs, who want some salacious fun but aren't bold enough to rent porn: The film's sexy frissons are consistently undermined by blunt talk about money, exploitation and pathetic self-delusion.

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  • Released: 2001
  • Rating: NR
  • Review: A throwback to the psychosexual mind games of LAST TANGO IN PARIS (1972), this anti-erotic drama chronicles three days in the lives of a dot-com millionaire and a high-minded stripper. Brilliant programmer Richard (Peter Sarsgaard) lives through his comput… (more)

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