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Anne Heche and Ashton Kutcher star in Spread.

Dale Robinette

2 out of 4 stars

Country
USA
Language
English

Spread

  • Written by Jason Dean Hall and Paul Kolsby
  • Directed by David Mackenzie
  • Starring Ashton Kutcher, Anne Heche and Margarita Levieva
  • Classification: 18A

'I don't want to be arrogant here, but I'm an incredibly attractive man."

Nikki (Ashton Kutcher) proclaims this seconds into Spread - but one of the best things about this film is that ultimately nobody in it is attractive.

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At first glance, director David Mackenzie - known for the gritty Young Adam - seems mismatched with this flighty love-versus-luxury narrative. Nikki is a sexual grifter who moves to Los Angeles to charm his way into the bedrooms and wallets of wealthy older women - until he meets Heather (Margarita Levieva), a waitress at a diner who stirs up his real feelings, and trouble with his latest dupe, Samantha (Anne Heche).

But Mackenzie manages to guide his "immorality tale" along the business end of a precipice, keeping just clear of falling into a predictably sappy redemption story. Turns out, Heather can push Nikki's buttons so easily because they're cut from the same cloth. And Kutcher impresses in a series of kick-in-the-gut moments that give the film a subtle edginess that belies its candy-coated website, which invites users to submit their own pickup tips.

As for Heche, Mackenzie shows he hasn't lost his taste for sex scenes that leave little to the imagination -the figure most often bobbing across the screen is Samantha, bent and twisted every which way by the well-practised Nikki. It's hard to see her as anything but a pitiable pawn in her lover's conversion.

Levieva, a native of St. Petersburg, delivers the film's most crushing scene convincingly. Still, there's little to explain Nikki's infatuation with her beyond the fact that, unlike other women in Spread , she's hard to get.

The film's biggest problem, though, is that it spends so much time in a vacuous Hollywood demimonde that some of the emptiness inevitably rubs off. Eventually, Nikki "gets real" - he sees how hollow his dreams have been and starts a more honest life from scratch, delivering groceries for the rich women whose fridges he used to raid.

But it's hard to believe he can build a new life on such a shallow foundation. And neither he nor any of the other characters who get their just desserts earn our admiration. Which leads to one question: What's the moral of this immorality tale again?

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