Canines strike the usual cute poses: panting backseat driver; splayed den-floor lounger; cowering patio defiler. But their presence takes on an unbearable sexual tension in what turns out, beyond all expectations, to be one of the year’s most daring psychodramas. Built around an unseen incident of bestiality, Sleeping Dogs Lie (titled Stay at its notorious Sundance premiere) follows sharp schoolteacher Amy (Hamilton) as she grapples with the memory of a careless act of college indiscretion, gathering the nerve to tell her fianc (Johnson) and suffering cataclysmic consequences as a result.
Amazingly, a film about blowing a dog manages to transcend its initial revelation (a testament to Hamilton’s dignified performance—one that’s even heartbreaking as her love slips away). Still more stunning is the courage of Goldthwait’s non-Oprahfied message: Sometimes honesty just ain’t the best policy.
Unfortunately, the underrated writer-director of Shakes the Clown undercuts his fully developed script—so tight, it could be performed onstage—with cutesy flourishes like a zany accordion score. The movie also looks terrible: a grainy video smudge that’s distracting, given Goldthwait’s dreamy, Jean-Claude Carrire--worthy plotting. But for those willing to overlook such blemishes, an adventurous, decidedly adult film awaits. Just be sure you can trust the sitter. (Opens Fri; Landmark Sunshine.) — Joshua Rothkopf