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Sex, Lies and Videotape

A movie directed by Steven Soderbergh

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Interviews about sex

  • Mar 9, 2001
  • by
Pros: An original concept

Cons: Needed more character development

The Bottom Line: Explore the lives of four individuals who all view sex in different ways while becoming involved in lies to achieve what they want.

Plot Details: This opinion reveals major details about the movie's plot.

While checking the listings of what was on television last evening I came across Sex, Lies and Videotape on the Sundance channel. This was written and directed by newcomer Steven Soderbergh in 1989 and surprisingly the first time I have viewed the film.

The story is about a married couple named Ann and John, portrayed by Andie MacDowell and Steven Gallagher. The marriage lacks any sparks plus the fact that John is having sex on a regular basis with Ann’s sister, Cynthia, played by Laura San Giacomo.

John is a lawyer moving up the ladder, Ann consults her therapist regularly, with whom she discusses her lack of interest in sex and compulsive ways. Cynthia tends bar at some dive with one regular customer that gets on Ann’s nerves.

One day an old college buddy of John’s appears wanting to face his past and find a place in town to live for an unspecified period of time. Graham is played by James Spader and spends a night or two at Ann and John’s place before apartment hunting.

While John sends Ann off to look at apartments with Graham, he calls Cynthia for a quick romp before heading to the office. There is an interesting scene in a restaurant with Graham and Ann afterwards where the topic turns to sex. For some reason Graham confides in Ann that he is impotent.

What I found funny is the number of times Ann and Cynthia are talking on the phone and then Cynthia and John planning their next tryst. Once Graham moves into town the talk between these three at separate times is based on what they know and want to know about Graham.

Ann assumed that Graham would be like John but that is not the case. It turns out they do not like each other, for there is history with a past girl friend. The new place Graham moved into has a large living room with a television and hard wood floors.

Graham had mentioned during his conversation with Ann that he videotaped women talking about sex. This helped him deal with his problem and became his personal project. The first time Ann stops by his new place Graham is on the floor watching his many tapes appearing to be unclothed.

Ann is intrigued by all the tapes with female names noted on them but rushes out due to mixed feelings. She runs to her sister again wanting to talk about Graham but not wanting her sister to sleep with him either.

At this point the viewer has seen Cynthia and John together and I wondered why Cynthia would want to search this Graham character. Cynthia walks right into his house and wants to get to know the guy who upset her sister.

Cynthia ends up being interviewed but most of this is not shown but spoken of between Cynthia, Ann and John. Ann is not happy to learn that Cynthia has opened up to Graham and wants to know if any sex took place. Ann is not happy to hear her sister masturbated in front of Graham.

Each time Cynthia and John are together it becomes apparent that once the sex is over Cynthia wants him gone. They really have nothing in common but the sex is intense after Cynthia relays the videotaping incident.

It sure looked like Cynthia spent more time with Ann and John separately than Ann and John were together. I did not see why they were even married in the first place. Ann seemed to be attracted to Graham in an off sort of way.

John becomes enraged when Cynthia tells him she told all about their sexual escapades on tape to Graham. He is worried they will get into the wrong hands. While Ann was over her sister’s house, Cynthia realized her pearl earring was missing.

Ann later discovers the earring attached to her vacuum cleaner and heads out into the car. Ann arrives at Graham’s asking about the videotape of Cynthia. Graham does confirm that her husband and sister are sleeping together but says it is not his place to tell her.

Ann wants to be videotaped and part way through starts questioning Graham about his life and past sexual history. They share some intimate moments and she later shows up home as her husband is calling around looking for her.

John then learns that Ann just did a videotape and heads over to Graham’s. Each person that arrives to Graham’s place walks right in and the door is always open. A fight ensues with Graham out on his porch while John watches the tape of Ann.

While watching the tape of Ann you see how innocent she really is since her answer as to ever having an orgasm is I am not sure but would like Graham to give her one. After viewing the tapes John leaves and Graham destroys each of them and tosses them out the front door.

The ending left gaps for me because the sisters discussed their Mother’s birthday and I did not see the significance of this discussion. The drunk in the bar got on my nerves always saying the same thing. I could not tell what line of work Ann was interested in pursuing or involved in.

I still sat glued to my couch watching Sex, Lies and Videotape wanting to see something that never came to light. I hoped that Ann and Graham would connect because I never saw a relationship between her and John. The sisters had a bond but also were jealous of what the other had. Graham mentioned spending nine years structuring his life, which was not really explained.

It was an interesting movie that was on the dark side with sexual undertones but never showing anything sexual but the language was of adult matter. I liked the brutal honesty of the characters and how they were all motivated in some way by sex.

Besides buying the video or renting it you can check televised listings at and search for the next broadcast. This will be showing again on Sundance this weekend, Saturday, March 10, 2001 after ten pm.

This would make an interesting topic of conversation for new couples and those who might be bored and need a diversion. I found it amusing and riveting at the same time.


Viewing Format: VHS
Video Occasion: Fit for Friday Evening
Suitability For Children: Not suitable for Children of any age

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More Sex, Lies and Videotape reviews
review by . November 17, 2000
posted in Movie Hype
Pros: ...     Cons: ...     Written and directed by first timer Steven Soderbergh, this relatively low budget flick actually received quite a bit of acclaim. Nominated for Best Director at the Academy Awards, it lost to Stones' Born on the 4th of July, but won Best Picture and Best Actor (Spader) at the Cannes Film Festival.      The movie centers around four main characters: Andie MacDowell & Peter Gallagher (husband and wife), Laura …
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Bonnie Sayers ()
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single parenting two teens on autism spectrum. Working out daily, Zumba & Bodybugg enthusiast.
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About this movie


Steven Soderbergh explodes onto the scene with this provocative, intelligent drama about infidelity and voyeurism. Ann Milaney (Andie MacDowell) lives in a comfortable Louisiana home with her lawyer husband, John (Peter Gallagher). She spends her days fretting over the insurmountable problems of the world and her own unfocused sense of melancholy. Although she doesn't know it, she has a good reason to be upset: John is having a torrid affair with her younger, more extroverted sister, Cynthia (the sexy Laura San Giacomo). When Graham Dalton (James Spader), an old college pal of John's, comes to visit, all three are momentarily distracted from personal problems and intrigues as they scrutinize the odd outsider. Ann soon discovers that Graham has some strange habits and problems of his own. Plagued by impotency since the calamitous breakup of his last relationship, the young drifter finds sexual gratification by videotaping women willing to talk about their sexual past and fantasies in front of the camera. ...
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Director: Steven Soderbergh
Release Date: 1989
MPAA Rating: R
DVD Release Date: Columbia TriStar Home Entertainment (October 07, 1998)
Runtime: 1hr 40min
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