In rough, loose digital camerawork usually reserved for film school shorts, Melinda Page Hamilton
(the nun from Desperate Housewives) stares lovingly, and curiously, at her dog as he rolls around on the floor. Then, without much warning, she proceeds to tie her hair back and perform oral sex on the dog. An act usually saved for the apogee of a John Waters
film, this bit of sexual daring serves more as a touchstone in Sleeping Dogs Lie, the newest film from none other than Bob "Bobcat" Goldthwait
Amy (Hamilton) has gone several years without talking or even acknowledging the act she performed on her dog. She's engaged to a nice, normal man named John (Bryce Johnson
) and they are preparing to head to the hills of Hollywood to meet with her uptight parents. One night, while fooling around in Amy's father's car, John admits a small sexual indiscretion in the hopes of practicing full honesty in their relationship. However, when Amy admits her indiscretion to John and her junkie brother (Jack Plotnick
), who is listening in, the result is not the welcoming forgiveness she was hoping for. Instead, it comes out to her parents (Geoffrey Pierson
and Bonita Friedericy
) and their perfect perception of her gets warped, along with John's perception. Article continues below
Morality doesn't hold the high ground in Goldthwait's fable. In fact, if wholesome messages are your bag, stick to the cartoons. Bobcat orchestrates what equates to a low-budget attack on what we perceive to be "the right way" and "normal." Does it matter if someone did something extremely perverse in a moment of daring? According to Goldthwait, it does indeed, and you should probably just lie about it in general.
Hamilton holds the heart of the film in her sweet delivery but the film rolls at an easy rhythm that doesn't hold with the difficult themes it grazes over (post-missionary sexuality, honesty vs. complacency). The disappointment that her father shows, specifically, almost cuts to the heart of what the film is contemplating, and Pierson's performance is just rough-and-tumble enough to pay it off. Sadly, the film stays on the periphery of the issues and never attempts to really plunge into the psychosis of these situations the way its contemporary influences did (Chasing Amy).
Sleeping Dogs Lie finds most of its charm in its bright, breezy cast and in its poppy digital work. Goldthwait isn't trying to change the world with this one, just trying to make people laugh and maybe spill his branded philosophy. If that's it, then his mission was accomplished. However, when you brandish your buttocks at the premiere of your film, as Bobcat did at a Sundance Q&A session; is it too much too suspect that you're after a bigger game than just laughs?