The Centre of the World (18)

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The ViewLondon Review

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Review byMatthew Turner26/09/2001

Two out of five stars
Running time: 86 mins

The Centre of the World plays like a computer geek millionaire’s fantasy version of Pretty Woman, only with an unfortunate dose of reality thrown in. Indeed, director Wayne Wang was inspired to make it after seeing how many strip clubs there were in Silicon Valley.

Peter Sarsgaard (Boys Don’t Cry) plays Richard, a lonely dotcom millionaire who has begun to neglect the company that made him rich.

Spending most of his days in front of his computers (usually surfing for porn), he finally plucks up the courage to talk to a girl he sees in the coffee shop every day, only to find out that she’s a stripper named Florence (Molly Parker, giving a performance to equal the intensity of her necrophiliac undertaker in Kissed).

After going to Florence’s place of work and getting her ‘standard’ lap-dance, Richard is hooked, and he offers Florence $10,000 to spend the weekend with him in Vegas.

Initially, Florence refuses, insisting she’s not a prostitute, but she finds herself warming to Richard and needs the money, so she accepts, under certain conditions, namely that the only sexual contact between them will be between 10pm and 2am, that there will be no talk of ‘feelings’ and that there will be no penetration.

The Centre of the World works on a couple of levels, but not on others. Firstly, it’s an effectively claustrophobic set-up, and it’s all shot on hand-held digital video, with a lot of extreme close-ups, all of which adds to the rising level of tension.

The initial sex scenes between them are suitably erotic, and you can feel Sarsgaard’s frustration. (One scene in particular, when Parker asks him which fantasy he’d like her to fulfill, will have viewers wincing in sympathy).

This is clearly intended to be a sort of Last Tango In Vegas, as two scenes in particular seem to explicitly recall that film (the above wince-inducing scene and a monologue by Carla Gugino later on).

However, ultimately the film is unsatisfactory, as you never really come to care about either of the characters. (It’s hard to feel sorry for a character who is worth $20 million and can’t get a girlfriend).

In Florence’s case, this may be deliberate – we never get to know her because Richard never really gets to know her, but at any rate the end result is disappointing.

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Content updated: 23/10/2017 00:01

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