Picks and Pans Review: The Opposite of Sex

updated 06/08/1998 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 06/08/1998 AT 01:00 AM EDT

Christina Ricci, Martin Donovan, Lisa Kudrow, Ivan Sergei

Dedee Truitt (Ricci), the trampy, pale-blonde teenage heroine of this mordantly funny black comedy, wouldn't want anyone confusing her with Pollyanna. "I don't have a heart of gold," she warns viewers early in The Opposite of Sex, "and I don't grow one later on. But relax. There are lots of nicer people coming up—we call them losers."

Audiences will be the winners with The Opposite of Sex, a piquant peppercorn of a picture in which Truitt would seem to be the world's most cynical 16-year-old. Not that she would object to the label. This is a kid who, at her stepfather's funeral, tosses her leftover cigarette butt into his open grave. During the course of The Opposite of Sex, she learns the hard way that those she dismisses as losers sometimes end up being life's winners just by being nice. She discovers this only after thoroughly, and hilariously, messing up the lives of three perfectly agreeable folk: her gay older half-brother (Donovan), a high school English teacher so fundamentally decent that when he catches a student slandering him with lavatory graffiti, he merely corrects the boy's grammar; Donovan's younger lover (Sergei), an adorable dope whom Ricci easily talks into sleeping with her; and another teacher (Friends' Kudrow), the sexually repressed sister of Donovan's dead former lover.

A bell-ringing directorial debut by screenwriter Don Roos (Boys on the Side), The Opposite of Sex has a big heart, which it does its best to disguise but finally can't. Ricci plays her nasty nymphet to ripe peach perfection, while Kudrow (Friends) demonstrates her peerless comic timing while conveying her character's underlying sadness. If Sex flags toward the end, it offers such fun along the way that one easily forgives the lackluster final lap. (R)

Bottom Line: The opposite of boring—original and funny

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