The Center of the World
With its flash cut nudity and slathered on mood music, the typical Hollywood sex scene has become a parody of itself, as made to specifications as a silicone implant. One goes into a movie like The Center of the World, shot on digital video by the scampish director Wayne Wang (”Smoke”), in the hopes of confronting a more risqué eroticism — sex seen through a glass darkly. The actors, Molly Parker and Peter Sarsgaard, doff their clothes and go through the paces of a dance of the seven kinks psychodrama with an eagerness you’d be hard pressed to find in marquee stars, but the movie itself is a tease.
In a kind of ”Last Tango With Pretty Woman,” Richard (Sarsgaard), a repressed computer whiz millionaire, offers $10,000 to Florence (Parker), a stripper with a thoughtful air, if she’ll spend several days with him in Las Vegas. Their sexual activity, which precludes kissing and intercourse, is limited to four hours a night. Much complication ensues, but the movie hammers home the theme that Florence’s vinyl dominatrix allure is a manufactured image while remaining beholden to that image; it never fills in, at least coherently, who she is beneath.
Parker simmers enticingly, and Sarsgaard, barely recognizable from ”Boys Don’t Cry,” could be a new screen type: the nerd hunk. They’re talented performers, but ”The Center of the World” is too arty by half, and it’s jarring to confront an end credit that reveals that a movie this exhibitionistic about its own ”honesty” used… body doubles.