The Center of the World

To Florence, the center of the world is her genital area (she uses a more colorful term). To Josh, the center of the world is the computer. Josh is an internet millionaire (back in the days when they existed) and Florence is the stripper he hired. The two are off to Vegas for three nights in Wayne Wang's new movie The Center of the World. This movie caused a stir with its racy ads and explicit nature. Because of the dreaded NC-17 rating this film would surely receive, Wang decided to release it unrated. Most films that use their sexuality as a selling point (case in point - Romance) lack other, more important qualities. Wang (Anywhere But Here, Chinese Box) has some admirable aspirations, but none of the come to pass.

The Center of the World is about control. Florence (Molly Parker, Sunshine, Wonderland) agrees to accompany Josh (Peter Sarsgaard, Boy's Don't Cry, The Man in the Iron Mask) only after he allows her to set ground rules for their encounters. He is willing to pay $10,000 for her services. Both think that they are in control of things. Unfortunately, when confronted with nothing else, the two begin to fall for each other. Florence will not violate her own rules because she believes that her rules give her power over Josh. Josh believes that since he is paying her, she will do whatever he wants, and hopefully fall in love with him. He even acts as if their agreement does not exist. Staying within their boundaries gives them a sense of comfort. Stepping out makes them uneasy. Most of this does not emerge in the story by Wang, Miranda Story, Paul Auster, Smoke, Blue in the Face), and Siri Hustvedt (Yonder). The Center of the World moves slowly, never making the viewer feel as uncomfortable as he/she should with a movie like this. Instead, the movie settles into a lull, punctuated every once in a while by Sarsgaard's butt and Parker's breasts.

Wang shot The Center of the World on digital, which gives everything a seamy, dirty look. Many times, films like this lack any eroticism. Wang uses this partially to his advantage. The scenes in strip clubs show just how clueless Josh is. Florence and the other stripper perform with no emotion, and Josh mistakes this for love. The scenes are empty of any sexual desire, or any other feeling. Later, when Josh and Florence test their boundaries, instead of feeling their passion, again their moves feel hollow. Most of the movie takes place in Josh's hotel room, which brings the brunt of the focus on the two main characters. They are not compelling enough to keep the viewer's interest for the length of the movie. Parker and Sarsgaard do okay with a limited script. Parker is cold and calculating and Sarsgaard is hopelessly naive. It's hard believing that the Josh character is as stupid as the movie makes him, even if he is as lonely as they say. The Center of the World plays like a variation on some familiar forbidden love story, only this time with a lot more nudity.

Mongoose Rates It: Not That Good.
1 hour, 26 minutes, Not Rated but contains nudity, sexuality, and language, would be an NC-17.

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