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Sleeping Dogs Lie

Year: 2006
Production Co: Harebrained Pictures
Director: Bobcat Goldthwait
Writer: Bobcat Goldthwait
Cast: Melinda Page Hamilton, Bryce Johnson

Here's a line I never thought I'd write in a movie review in my life. This is the sweetest and most heartfelt movie about a woman who once gave a dog a blowjob I've ever seen. Who else but someone as creatively off the reservation as Bobcat Goldthwait could (or would) make a film about a girl who does that, then have her sobbing convincingly at the news of the mother's death and make you really care about her in the same movie?

As you might have guessed, it's a very strange animal (the movie, not the dog). The very first scene shows college girl Amy (Melinda Page Hamilton) staring curiously at her dog as he lazes around on his back, stretching and exposing his doggy crown jewels for the world to see. Next thing she's running into the bathroom gagging, rinsing her mouth out and gargling with mouthwash.

Years later, Amy is a successful schoolteacher with a loving boyfriend. The knowledge of the disgusting thing she once did when she was a stupid kid niggles at her occasionally like a stone in her shoe but doesn't rule her life.

If – at that point – you can see her as a whole person who isn't defined by one thing, the movie might have made its point to you. But if you can't get past it and can't forget what Amy did, you'll have no sympathy for either her or the film, and that seems to be the point too.

Circumstances surrounding a visit to her judgmental parents and loser brother prompt a crisis in Amy, wondering if she should follow conventional wisdom and come clean to her loving fiance John (Bryce Johnson) about what she once did.

When she does, the initial shock and resulting fight wears off and he tries his hardest to forget it, but he can't, and both their hearts are broken as a result.

The next phase of Amy's life becomes a quest about understanding what you should share and what you should keep to yourself, about forgiving yourself for stupid things you did, and much more.

An interesting central question the film asks is how you react to Amy. She's completely normal – even lovely – in every respect, knowing full well what she's done and what people would think of her because of it.

It's also kind of exciting to see a movie not espouse the kind of morals Hollywood always spoon feeds us. Being completely truthful with your spouse is part of the happily-ever-after propaganda we all grow up with, but Sleeping Dogs Lie suggests another way – that lying (or lying by omission) is okay if it works.

And here's another idea – Sleeping Dogs Lie is a feminist statement. Amy is a real woman. She's not perfect. And I don't mean not perfect in a Sex In The City I-can't-figure-out-my-love-life-and-just-want-to-shop kind of way.

She did something as a girl she's disgusted and ashamed of now, a mistake that's as crushing as it is banal like we all do, and she's just trying to get past it and get on with life. As much as any other action or standpoint she has, it makes her more human than the endless roster of Madonna/whore archetypes we usually get from female characters in movies.

It's also helps that Hamilton is the right actress for the role. Pretty without being a babe, smart without being a genius, vulnerable while still able to function, she's very much the girl next door.

It's far from perfect. The at-times amateurish approach and direction hampers the quality of the delivery, but the strength of the idea picks up any of the slack in the execution.

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