The Center of the World

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The Center of the World
The Center of the World poster.jpg
Directed byWayne Wang
Produced byWayne Wang
Peter Newman
Written byWayne Wang
Miranda July
Paul Auster
Siri Hustvedt
StarringPeter Sarsgaard
Molly Parker
Carla Gugino
Balthazar Getty
CinematographyMauro Fiore
Edited byLee Percy
Redeemable Features
Distributed byArtisan Entertainment
Release date
  • April 19, 2001 (2001-04-19)
Running time
88 minutes
CountryUnited States

The Center of the World is an American film directed by Wayne Wang, which was digitally shot and released in 2001. It stars Peter Sarsgaard as a Dot-com millionaire who hires a drummer/stripper (Molly Parker) to stay with him in Las Vegas for three days for US$10,000. The film was screened out of competition at the 2001 Cannes Film Festival.[1]


A couple checks into a suite in Las Vegas. In flashbacks we see that he's a computer whiz on the verge of becoming a dot-com millionaire (Peter Sarsgaard). She's a lap dancer at a club (Molly Parker). He's depressed, withdrawing from work, missing meetings with investors. He wants a connection, so he offers her $10,000 to spend three nights with him in Vegas. She accepts with conditions: four hours per night of erotic play, and no penetration.

During the days in Vegas, they get to know each other, have fun, and meet a friend of hers, casino dealer Jerri (Carla Gugino). After the first night, things get complicated. When the three days are over, the stripper makes it clear that she was only there for the money and that the man she spent the time with was just a client. Upset that his feelings aren't reciprocated, he rapes her; she makes no attempt to stop him. She then masturbates for him, achieving orgasm, saying "you want to see real? I'll show you real." The next day he returns home heartbroken.

The movie ends with his return to the strip club to see the woman he fell in love with again. She greets him fondly but interacts with him the way she had when they first met: as a stripper and a client ordering a lap dance.

Because the film is shown in a non-linear format, it is left to the viewer to interpret the ending. One could believe that the film ends with the meeting at the strip club and a chance for the two characters to have a real relationship together, or one could believe that the strip club meeting occurred earlier in time and the film ends with the characters going their separate ways in life.


  • Internet executive Jason Calacanis consulted on, and appeared in, the film.


The film opened to mixed reviews, and has been compared to movies with similar "hooker in love" storylines such as Exotica and Pretty Woman. The Center of the World is more explicit than those films, containing both female and male full frontal nudity, as well as a penetration shot of a lollipop in a vagina, performed by pornographic actress Alisha Klass.

Rotten Tomatoes gives the film a positive rating of 35% based on 81 reviews, with a weighted average of 4.78/10. The site's consensus reads: "For all its tease, the movie doesn't have more to say than money can't buy you love".[2]. Critic Roger Ebert gave the film a score of 3.5/4 stars.[3]

The film's title may be an allusion to Courbet's L'Origine du monde.[4]

Censorship controversy[edit]

A Cincinnati theater owner attracted media attention after allegedly ordering a member of his staff to edit a five-second scene from the film a day before its release. According to Cincinnati CityBeat, Esquire Theater owner Gary Goldman instructed his theater manager and projectionist to cut the scene in which a female stripper (portrayed by pornographic actress Alisha Klass) inserts a lollipop into her vagina.[5][6][7]


  1. ^ "Festival de Cannes: The Center of the World". Retrieved 2009-10-24.
  2. ^ "The Center of the World". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango Media. Retrieved 2019-06-27.
  3. ^ "The Center of the World". Roger Ebert. Roger Ebert. Retrieved 2018-09-19.
  4. ^
  5. ^ "Censorship row hits Wayne Wang's latest". Retrieved 2016-01-01.
  6. ^ "Esquire Theater's fans feel betrayed". Retrieved 2016-03-20.
  7. ^ "Esquire Cuts Sex Scene from Center of the World". Retrieved 2016-01-01.

External links[edit]