Retro Review: Center of the World

Kicking in the door between the barrier of soft-core porn and Hollywood love scenes, “Center of the World” takes on new territory. The thing is what kind of theatre do you show a film like this in.

“Center of the World” focuses around Richard Longman (Peter Sarsgard), a very lonely software developer who has just watched his software take off to huge success. He hates the business world and dealing with the factors of his companies IPO. Richard is very much a recluse.

One day, Richard meets a young woman named Florence (Molly Parker) in a coffee shop. When Richard enquires more about the woman he finds out she is a musician and a stripper. This lifestyle intrigues Richard and he vigorously pursues Florence. Finally he comes up with a proposal that he is sure Florence won’t turn down. Richard offers Florence a lot of money in exchange for her to accompany him to Las Vegas. On the trip, they will have a sexual arrangement that will involve everything except intercourse and kissing on the lips.

How will this taboo relationship effect these two lost souls? Who will breakdown first? And just how far will the two go in the search for sexual gratification?

“Center of the World” is definitely one of the most overtly explicit films to come out of Hollywood. Not since, “Caligula” and “Basic Instinct” has a film journeyed into this territory in Hollywood. We have had a fair share of explicit love scenes but nothing like this. I did admire the film for being no-holds-barred in that aspect.

A lot of you may remember “One Night Stand” but I am sure most of you know “Leaving Las Vegas” if you can recollect those films and focus on the utter desperation of those characters then you will arrive at where the characters in “Center of the World” are. These characters use sex as a way to abandon their lives and try to bring a shimmering light of bliss to their empty souls. For a lot of people, this is very hard to understand.

Molly Parker is uninhibited in her portrayal of Florence who has to be nude for most of the picture. Her focus of the character has to be pulled from deep inside. Parker perfectly shows the difference between the stripper and the inner struggle of the real Florence. I really liked how even in the non-explicit scenes Parker could still show us a glimpse of the stripper.

One scene where Parker confronts an abused friend (played by Carla Gugino) shows the desperation of the two women but Parker seems to be not surprised by the abuse. What is great is the audience isn’t sure if the character of Florence is in denial of the abuse or has been there before. I loved her performance.

The saddest thing about the film, besides the desperation, is the lead male character. This man oozes pathetic. He is rich beyond a lot of us and he still has to pay a huge amount of dough for a woman to even recognize him. The way Sarsgard plays Richard makes us resent the fact that the guy can even make that kind of money. This guy doesn’t seem to have a shred of self respect. Sarsgard plays him like he is just some john. The guy is a schmuck. Enough said.

That obvious failure in the character of Richard and the performance make the chemistry between Parker and Sarsgard very uneven.

This is the huge fault of the film. I really felt that even during the scenes where Florence thinks she likes Richard is just Florence settling for the money not the man. Who would want a guy like this?

Other failures in the film have mainly to do with the subject matter and it for sure will offend a lot of people. This film is sure to play better in Europe than in North America because of North America’s continuing taboos of sex. I would really like to know a European perspective on this film.

It is a shame that this subject matter is still perceived as it was in the 1960s. Another question maybe, how could we have delivered a film like this without offending some of us. I was deeply offended to how much of a man Richard is not. Were you?

(2.5 out of 5)

So Says the Soothsayer.

One thought on “Retro Review: Center of the World

  1. I think offending the audience in just the area you mention was the whole goal of the director. Not in the sense in which some horror directors try to go for the over-the-top gross-out, but in the sense to shake our foundations by representing what is out there. And where you see the “huge flaw of the film” is part of the complete ambiguity that saturates this movie. Florence just goes for the money even when she thinks she might like him. Her motives are just as confused and damaging to herself as Richard’s, even though it seems as if she’s in control of everything.

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