The element that impressed me the most was the succint, yet brutally realistic dialogue. I've never been more impressed with a film's dialogue and actually screamed out, "Now THAT'S how people talk!" The interactions between each character are so intense and down to earth, and gets the audience deeply engaged. James Spader shines in this career-making performance as a documentary filmmaker who gets his rocks off filming women talking about sex. We never know why he developed this unusual interest, but that's what's so great. And the way Spader carries his character is so subtle and powerful. His character is quiet and mysterious, and he expresses this enigmatic role perfectly with every silence, every facial gesture, every tone of voice. That's another element that I loved. Soderbergh expresses to his audience that people don't always mean what they say. And you can tell by every hint of body language. During these character interplays, you get a feel for what the characters are really thinking with their every subtle nuance. And that's what creates most of the film's tension.
And of course, the film has great depth and treats its subject with the greatest of maturity. In one scene, Spader interviews this young woman who talks about her first experience with masturbation. That could've easily been transformed into something gratuitous and heavy-handed. The subjects of sex and infidelity are treated with a sense of reality, and I'm sure many couples who are involved in relationships where one of the mates are cheating will find the whole situation with Andie McDowell and Peter Gallagher haunting. Everything is low-key and some might find the rhythm slow-moving, but that's what I liked about it. It slowly unfolds and takes its time developing the characters and their situations. Many filmmakers would've taken the subject of infidelity and made it into a melodramatic soap. But Soderbergh is very patient. He never once thinks, "Maybe the audience is not interested anymore," and speeds things up. He goes at his own pace, and works with it consistently.
I don't know if others will get the same effect I did out of this movie, but appreciate a film that respects its characters and respects its dialogue. Sure, I also appreciate a film with massive entertainment value, but other times I'd rather watch something with depth and realism. This is one of those films that just has a subtle energy. Looking at "sex, lies and videotape" from the outside, it's hard to explain the power of Soderbergh's masterpiece. All I say is go see for yourself! I hope you'll be just as astounded.
My score: 10 (out of 10)