A sexually repressed woman's husband is having an affair with her sister. The arrival of a visitor with a rather unusual fetish changes everything.

Director:

Steven Soderbergh
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Popularity
2,123 ( 897)
Nominated for 1 Oscar. Another 15 wins & 23 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Complete credited cast:
James Spader ... Graham
Andie MacDowell ... Ann
Peter Gallagher ... John
Laura San Giacomo ... Cynthia
Ron Vawter ... Therapist
Steven Brill ... Barfly
Alexandra Root Alexandra Root ... Girl on Tape
Earl T. Taylor Earl T. Taylor ... Landlord
David Foil David Foil ... John's Colleague
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Storyline

John and Ann Mullany, a junior partner at a law firm and a housewife respectively, are a young, upwardly mobile couple, who most would deem to have a perfect life. Ann's outward perfection belies the fact that she is in therapy, dealing with the stress over worrying about global issues with which she has little to no control. She does not see certain things with which she does have control being problems in her life, namely her sexual repression or her disinterest in sex as an activity, that is until it manifested itself in this stress which in turn is having, what she believes, a negative impact on her marriage. What she is unaware of is that, long before her stress began, John embarked on an affair with her sister, bartender Cynthia Bishop, who she doesn't admire as being too "loud". John reconnects with a close friend from college named Graham Dalton, who, to John, appears to have lost his way in life in the years that they have not been in touch. Graham, via the method in which he... Written by Huggo

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Taglines:

Cine independiente USA

Genres:

Drama

Certificate:

R | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

One scene includes a videotaped confession by one of James Spader's character's past lovers. The director gave the script and a video camera to Jennifer Jason Leigh so she could tape the speech at home with the help of her boyfriend. They never got around to it; once filming began, a crew member was used in the brief role. See more »

Goofs

When John bursts into Graham's apartment, he finds Cynthia's and Ann's tapes in the boxes on the table. Both tapes have the same date on them, even though it is clearly implied that several days have past since Cynthia made her tape. See more »

Quotes

[first lines]
Ann: Garbage. All I've been thinking about all week is garbage. I mean, I just can't stop thinking about it.
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Crazy Credits

This film is dedicated to Ann Dollard 1956-1988 See more »

Connections

Referenced in First Cut: Sex, Lies and Parkinson's (2011) See more »

Soundtracks

Garbage
Written by Mark A. Mangini
Performed by Mark A. Mangini
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User Reviews

 
a terrific, slowly unfolding debut with sublime performances
4 July 2004 | by Quinoa1984See all my reviews

Steven Soderbergh, as observed by other reviewers and critics, did take inspiration from the kinds of films Eric Rohmer's been making for decades. These kinds of films, as Sex, Lies, and Videotape is at its core, about people in morality crises, and how they get out of them or linger with how they act is the point. Some people may not like the film, therefore, as nothing incredibly outrageous or spectacular will occur. For all the attention Soderbergh received (Golden Palm, Independent Spirits, Oscar and Golden Globe nominations, immediate recognition), he's made a small film, and it's not as ambitious as some of his later, greater works like Out of Sight and Traffic. But as a revealing, intimate character study, with an often clever and controlled mis-en-scene, Soderbergh shows his skills were already honed at twenty-six.

Without good acting the film would be like a hopeless rendition of a foreign film, but with the four lead performances from McDowell, Gallagher, Gia Como, and Spader (his is most under-stated of the bunch for me) these are as fully realized characters as Soderbergh could get. They all must've taken something about the characters in the script, because for all the flaws and misconceptions and fears these characters carry, they are human. Even Gallagher's John, who's the conniving husband and lawyer, is recognizably as he is even when he's comparatively lesser than Graham and Ann. Only one side character, the barfly played by Steven Brill, gets the film to immediately halt with uncomfortable humor. But the rest of the film, loaded with innuendo (there's not one shot of nudity, similar to a Rohmer film like Chloe in the Afternoon, where the cover art of the film is rather misleading to those looking for a film with breasts and other parts) and involving drama, doesn't shake its foundations until maybe the last five to ten minutes. And when it does, it does not make the film a lost cause, at least for me. Begs to be seen again, though with maybe a year or so between viewings. A-


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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

22 September 1989 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Sex, Lies... See more »

Filming Locations:

Baton Rouge, Louisiana, USA

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Box Office

Budget:

$1,200,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend USA:

$155,982, 6 August 1989

Gross USA:

$24,741,667

Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

$24,741,667
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Company Credits

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Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Dolby Stereo

Color:

Color

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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