"The Center of the World" benefits from intense, committed performances from both leads: Sarsgaard is intensely appealing as a man, essentially sweet, who is better at interacting with computer games than with people, and Parker shows a virtuoso ability to turn a sex-siren personality on and off at will, revealing a much more interesting woman underneath. An outstanding, sultry soundtrack helps matters along considerably.
If "The Center of the World" ultimately disappoints in spite of these virtues, it's because Wang's other work, from "Chan Is Missing" to "Smoke," has tended to be quirky and surprising, leaving audiences with plenty to think about after leaving the theatre. All "The Center of the World" has to say, finally, is that money can't buy you love--a message that should surprise no one. Like a strip-tease artist, this film looks great and promises a lot, but doesn't deliver all that much in the end. Starring Peter Sarsgaard and Molly Parker. Directed by Wayne Wang. Written by Ellen Benjamin Wong. Produced by Peter Newman and Wayne Wang. An Artisan release. Drama. Unrated. Running time: 90 min.