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Boogie Nights on Sunset Boulevard

Spread (2009)

2009 Sundance Film Festival

A timely satire of Los Angeles's young and shameless could and should have worked, but "Spread" is not that film. This one is a heavy-handed sex comedy that starts off weak and ends up as an outright bad idea. It features a parade of beautiful people being horrible to each other half-dressed and then going to bed to be more horrible to each other in the nude, but despite this it's hard to work up much enthusiasm. The film's real message seems to be that producer and star Ashton Kutcher would like to be Warren Beatty, and if you can handle that concept then kudos to you.

Apparently this is directed by David Mackenzie, but it must be the doppelganger of the guy who made "Hallam Foe" (released as "Mister Foe" in America), which was dark and ambiguous. "Spread" features a narration from Mr. Kutcher that takes us into his character's head – big echoing chamber that it is – and hammers home every nuance. There's really not much to explain: Nikki (Mr. Kutcher) is a gigolo who sponges off a sequence of wealthy women, currently Samantha (Anne Heche). Then he meets sassy waitress Heather (Margarita Levieva), who seems immune to his charms, and you're way ahead of me by now aren't you?

We will have to wait to hear whether Mr. Mackenzie intended "Spread" to be more subversive than it is (the director begged off attending the Edinburgh International Film Festival screening due to pressure of work), but you have to suspect that someone twisted his arm. The whole thing is too full of classic Hollywood calculation. Mr. Kutcher has crunched the numbers and decided that the time is right to undermine his cocky demeanor a little. Ms. Heche will pop back onto the radar of Mr. Skin's Web site by spending much of the film with her legs in the air while the camera admires the effects of the ThighMaster. Everyone talks dirty to everyone else constantly ("C'mon Nikki. I shaved your balls. You were the first in my ass" is a fair example), until you wish they'd just shut up and get back to the oral sex.

Good to know, though, that even this film can spark debate. Nikki learns his life lesson by the end, but the women fare noticeably worse. Samantha, when faced with the prospect of no longer being screwed into the floorboards by Nikki, opts for vaginal rejuvenation surgery. An audible murmur of scorn from half the audience greeted this development, matched with a realization by the other half that our evening had just taken a turn for the worse.


Opens on Aug. 14 in the United States and on Nov. 27 in Britain.

Directed by David Mackenzie; written by Jason Dean Hall, based on a story by Mr. Hall and Paul Kolsby; director of photography Steven Poster; edited by Nicholas Erasmus; music by John Swihart; production designer Cabot McMullen; produced by Ashton Kutcher, Jason Goldberg and Peter Morgan; released by Anchor Bay Films (United States) and Optimum Releasing (Britain). Running time: 1 hour 31 minutes.

WITH: Ashton Kutcher (Nikki), Anne Heche (Samantha), Margarita Levieva (Heather), Sebastian Stan (Harry), Rachel Blanchard (Emily) and Sonia Rockwell (Christina).


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