Director Todd Solondz knows exactly how to make a scene extremely uncomfortable. He’ll hold on a social impoliteness just a little too long, or have a character say something a little too honest at just the wrong moment. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that the subject of the film is sex — one character is a pedophile, one makes harassing phone calls, and the most sexually “normal” characters are messed up in the head. But as painful as the film is to watch, it is a masterful creation. An troupe of hard-to-embarrass actors gives one of the best ensemble performances of 1998. Solondz (whose debut Welcome to the Dollhouse was also quite good) proves he’s a talented director, even if he uses his talents to make you squirm. Solondz manages to weave together four or five story lines into a coherent, complete plot. Happiness is not for the sexually squeamish, but if you’re up for it, it’s a very well made movie and worth the rent.
published September 5, 2000