Opposite of Sex, The (1998): Don Roos Winning Comedy, Starring Christina Ricci

Don Roos, the gifted filmmaker of the hilariously witty The Opposite of Sex, has built a reputation as a screenwriter specializing in female characters (Love Field, Boys on the Side).

The openly gay Roos unflinchingly throws himself into political incorrectness. “I can tolerate a lot of ugly behavior,” Roos said, recalling how he learned early on to use a quick wit in dealing with adversity because he couldn’t beat anybody up as a kid. “He doesn’t have negative issues with woman,” noted Lisa Kudrow, who appears in The Opposite of Sex. “He doesn’t play the gender roles.”

The film’s (anti)heroine, Dedee (Christina Ricci), is a preternaturally tough adolescent who runs away from home and insinuates herself into the life of her gay half-brother, Bill (Martin Donovan), and his lover, Matt (Ivan Sergei).

As the acid-tongued narrator and teen fatale, Ricci sports a blond bob, pouty red lips and deep cleavage. From the start, Bill’s pals recognize Dedee as a threat, but he remains clueless until the nymphette has seduced Matt, become visibly pregnant, run away with Bill’s savings, and jeopardized his teaching job. All the characters are trapped in emotional binds, which provide prime pickings for the conniving Dedee. Rather than write a morality tale, Roos opts for a dark comedy with an honest take on sex.

The Opposite of Sex serves up murder, unwanted pregnancy, and other neuroses–all undercut by Dedee’s offensive asides. Dedee’s voice-over narration puts an ironic spin on serious themes. “If you think I’m just plucky and scrappy and all I need is love, you’re in over your head. I don’t have a heart of gold, and I don’t grow one later,” she tells the audience irreverently.

“I am certainly not one of those angry queer filmmakers directing a movie about hustling on Santa Monica Boulevard,” Roos told Premiere. “I don’t have a particularly grim worldview.” Roos describes himself as a “bridge” filmmaker who crosses the divide between gays and straights: “I want to make sure that we are all living in the same world.”

The Opposite of Sex gives each character–straight or gay, repressed or promiscuous–an epiphany about sex. Roos is a rude Woody Allen for the 1990s, without the fake bravado of David O. Russell, whose work is also inspired by Allen.

The Opposite Sex ends with an homage to Annie Hall, with Roos as the gay Woody Allen. Representing a new, inclusive front among indies, Roos is not interested “in being everybody’s cup of tea,” because that would “awfully watered down” his writing. The movie covers broad enough bases to give audiences of diverse orientations something to relate to, which explains its commercial success.