Monday, January 19, 2009


David Mackenzie | 2009 | 97 mins | USA

This lame duck of a comedy/drama is currently premiering at Sundance, and will likely be coming to theatres in the very near future. Let me save you $12. It's unfunny, and you will grow to hate every single character in it well before the halfway mark. Ashton Kutcher plays Nicki, a cocky hustler who cons rich women of a certain age into buying him expensive gifts and letting him stay with them until he moves on to a better conquest. A creepily thin Anne Heche plays Samantha, his latest mark on the merry path to wealth and success as a homeless but handsome gigolo.

Spread has already drawn comparisons to films like Shampoo (which had twice the humour) and American Gigolo (which had twice the dramatic tension) but the sad fact is that while Kutcher has the good looks, he's got nowhere near the charisma of a young Warren Beatty or even a young Richard Gere. The latter two succeed because they're likable and their seduction act is convincing enough that you think (even if only for a split second) "yeah, I'd fall for him". Kutcher is comparatively ludicrous in the role of a scheming charmer - nothing about his smarmy goofball demeanour makes it plausible that anyone would fall for his act for more than a single night.

I guess idiots like Samantha exist in the world, but letting a one night stand move in with you is such a stupid thing to do that it's very difficult to feel any sympathy for her when it becomes apparent that Nicki is just using her for her swanky digs.

Predictably, while he's living off Samantha, Nicki ends up falling in love with a pretty and seemingly innocent waitress, Heather (Margarita Levieva), only to discover that she's the same kind of scam artist as he is. The two begin a painful dance around each other that culminates in a stupid reckoning where everyone's supposed to come to terms with who and what they really are, and choose between love and money, and blah, blah, blah.

It's basically impossible to care about anyone in this film. Both Nicki and Heather are unlikable jerks and Samantha is a desperate, simpering ninny. What might have been a good sexually charged tale about two grifters that pits ambition and vanity against human decency and love is instead a lukewarm drama in which the sex isn't even hot. The stylish, hip, sun-drenched backdrop of a hustler's L.A. is actually the only good thing about Spread. The producers should have kept the cinematographer and fired everyone else!

If you're an Ashton Kutcher completist, I guess you should go see this. But while you're at the theatre, seriously question whether you even actually like movies.


aaron said...

Bad news: I am an Ashton Kutcher completist.

This sounds like the most awful setup I've heard in a while, but so would anything that begins with, "Ashton Kutcher and Anne Heche star in. . ."

katarina said...

I don't hate it like I hate Titus or anything, but it's irredeemably, infuriatingly bad, which is a shame, because "Ashton Kutcher and Anne Heche star in..." could also have resulted in something hilariously, entertainingly bad instead.

aaron said...

A potential Butterfly Effect turns out to be a mere Butterfly Effect 2.

katarina said...

You have no idea how accurate your statement is.