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Bobcat Goldthwait’s second theatrical feature covers territory considered taboo even in pornography (and for good reason), but it does so with amazing tastefulness and sincerity. Let’s get this out the way right off the bat, just as the film does: Sleeping Dogs Lie is about a woman, Amy (Melinda Page Hamilton), who experimented in sexual relations with her dog while in college. This is not to say she regularly had sex with the animal – it was simply one act, on one occasion – and, as the title suggests, the film is really about the repercussions of her decision to share this information with her loved ones.
Amy is very seriously considering marrying her longtime boyfriend, John (Bryce Johnson), who believes that the couple should be completely honest and share all their secrets with one another. After initially hedging with a made-up story about sleeping with her friend Linda (Morgan Murphy), Amy finally decides to tell John her most mortifying secret. The timing couldn’t be worse, as they are at her parents’ home where John is meeting her family for the first time, but is there ever really a good time to hear something like that? Even more unfortunate for everyone involved, however, is that Amy’s troubled, meth-smoking brother, Dougie (Jack Plotnick), overhears the confession, and soon the truth is out to her parents (Geoff Pierson and Bonita Friedericy) as well.
The truly remarkable thing about this film is how tastefully and relatably such repugnant subject matter is handled. Though Amy has done an undeniably disgusting thing in her past, the film’s humor (which is every bit as good as its drama) is never truly at her expense, and there is never any question that we are meant to empathize with her every step of the way. Because of Hamilton’s exceptional, heartbreaking performance and Goldthwait’s intelligent, insightful screenplay, it is never difficult to do so, either. Like the inferior (but still interesting) Lars and the Real Girl, which sensitively explored a lonely man’s love affair with a realistic-looking sex doll, Sleeping Dogs Lie takes a subject that could easily have been mined for nothing but cheap laughs and, instead, uses it to express a profound truth about the human condition: sometimes it is better to lie to the ones you love.