Main cast: Peter Sarsgaard (Richard Longman), Molly Parker (Florence), Mel Gorham (Roxanne), Shane Edelman (Porter), and Carla Gugino (Jerri)
Director: Wayne Wang
“The cunt is the center of the world,” the stripper Florence says in this movie.
Ain’t that the truth.
The Center of the World is a movie all about sex. But it’s a failure though, because the characters don’t actually dare to go all out to portray the extent of their feelings. In the end, this movie feels cold, vague, and forbidding instead of being thought-provoking and simultaneously arousing the way it intends to be.
Dotcom millionaire Richard Longman is infatuated with a stripper named Florence. He pays her ten thousand dollars to accompany him to a three-day trip to Las Vegas. She lays down the rules: fun hours are from 10pm to 2am only, no penetration, no kissing, no talking about emotions. In short, it’s just going to be a job for her.
This movie intends to explore the changes in the feelings of these two characters. Richard, already besotted, will want more, but this movie wants to ask me whether Richard is in love with the idea of a sexual perfection or in Florence. To be honest, I don’t care. Peter Sarsgaard plays Richard like a buffoony, innocent boy who is no match for Florence at all. I see way too much of his buttocks (or maybe his body double’s buttocks, I don’t know) for my liking, and for too much his motives seem transparent. He is just a horny boy out to play. What’s there to analyze?
Florence is the worst. Her characterization runs everywhere, and there is no consistency in her nature. Does she even like Richard? If that’s the question this movie asks me, I don’t know. And I don’t care, because for too long, Molly Parker plays Florence in a manner that suggests that Florence is just bored out of her wits. Her sexuality is more of the world-weary sort, so I cannot muster any enthusiasm for her character at all. Hence her abrupt “But I like him!” to a friend over the phone rings false.
Only towards the late third, Florence starts to exude the chilling sexual magnetism that gives some light as to why Richard is captivated. But then the folks have to ruin it with a ridiculously scripted finale. After Richard rapes her only to humiliate himself in the end, Florence defiantly masturbates herself into an orgasm he couldn’t give her as a final fuck-off gesture to him. But this scene is so timidly captured, the orgasm a whimper, that the whole confrontation falls really flat.
Actually, that sums up this entire movie: flat, lifeless, and hollow. There are many explicit stimulated sex scenes that only stops short of being outright pornographic, but at the same time, this movie doesn’t seem to know what it is saying at all. In the end, it’s pretty much a desultory affair.