The Centre Of The World

The Centre Of The World


Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

Pretty Woman and Leaving Las Vegas were never entirely honest. Prostitutes are not like Julia Roberts and Elisabeth Shue. Sex is a business and there are rules. Love and affection has nothing to do with it.

Wayne Wang's two hander cannot be faulted on that front. Florence (Molly Parker) is a lap dancer, who is paid to spend three days and nights in Las Vegas with Richard (Peter Sarsgaard), a young guy who has made millions from the dot com revolution.

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She says she doesn't do sex for money. He says he just wants to get to know her better. She says she wants a separate room, no talk of emotions, no kissing on the mouth, no penetration. He agrees.

The film is shot in the hotel suite. It becomes claustrophobic. Florence puts on her client's clothes, does sexy come-on routines for him, fakes orgasmic pleasure, sticks to the rules. He falls for her. He has nowhere else to go and she's good at what she does. They have a meal. They talk. They seem like normal people, but they're not. She's going through the motions, while he's for real

"I come from a very tight family, very mid Western," he says, as if she cares. She tells him she's a drummer in a rock band. "I make a lot of noise."

The film is empty. Neither of the protagonists are interesting. Florence has baggage. At one moment there is a hint that she might swing both ways, or, maybe, only one since the guy thing is a fake. Her professionalism becomes a challenge at first, but not for long. What's there to know? In this intensely intimate situation, either she gives, or she doesn't. She wavers.

Richard is so naive, he's boring. He's lived all his grown life in front of a screen. He gets off on computer games. How sad can you be? Money doesn't mean anything. He wants love.

That's a cliche, of course, but the movie is not a cliche. It's too honest. The actors are brave and true to their characters. It is not easy to do this kind of thing.

If you didn't know that Las Vegas was an illusion, you will now. There is a scene at the end, after they have left, when the maid comes in to strip the beds. She does it with a mixture of clinical efficiency and anger. Suddenly, you want to ask her about her life, her work, why she feels this way. She looks Mexican. And then she's gone. As if real people have no place here.

Reviewed on: 20 Sep 2001
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A man pays a stripper to spend three days with him so that he can get to know her better.
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Read more The Centre Of The World reviews:

Keith Dudhnath ****1/2

Director: Wayne Wang

Writer: Ellen Benjamin Wong

Starring: Molly Parker, Peter Sarsgaard, Carla Gugino, Balthazar Getty

Year: 2001

Runtime: 86 minutes

BBFC: 18 - Age Restricted

Country: US


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