The Center of the World | Chicago Reader

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The emotions of purchased sex—real, imagined, manufactured, faked, and rationalized—appear to be the focus of this stark, explicit, pungent tale, shot in varying grades of digital video, about a computer engineer named Richard (Peter Sarsgaard) who pays a lot of money to a woman named Florence (Molly Parker) in return for three days in Las Vegas with her. At various times Florence is shown to be a drummer in a rock band, a stripper, and a prostitute; whether she's all three or we're simply seeing Richard's views of her isn't always clear, but confusion of this kind is central to the movie. The script is by Ellen Benjamin Wong, based on an original story by director Wayne Wang, Paul Auster, Siri Hustvedt, and Miranda July. The metaphorical thrust of the story suggests that it might be about the fiction-making processes of writers and filmmakers as well as the delusions of capitalist buying power. It's also about pain, which both tempers and complicates the eroticism. 86 min.

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