Ken reviews: Spread

By Ken KwekMovies - 16 October 2009 12:00 AM | Updated 21 October 2009

Ken reviews: Spread

Once in a long while, I find myself wandering into a Hollywood Nasty.

A Hollywood Nasty is not the same as a Hollywood Blockbuster. A Hollywood Blockbuster tends to be, at the very least, crudely entertaining. The characters may be shallow, but hey at least Optimus Prime looks awesome.

A Hollywood Nasty, by comparison, is....well, it's usually just plain nasty. The kind of movie that might feature a B-grade star or two, and which is fated to end up in the $1 clearance sale bin at Video Ezy.

This week, I had the choice of watching one of two Hollywood Nasties: Spread-about the misadventures of an American playboy; and Lesbian Vampire Killers-about (one assumes) lesbian vampire killers.

After much agonizing, I decided against Lesbian Vampire Killers. It sounded too complicated. (For one, who are the lesbians: the vampires or the vampire killers?)

So I went for Spread, which stars Ashton Kutcher, Anne Heche and Margarita Levieva. (See what I mean about a B-grade star or two?)

The film may be summed up as such: A young playboy (Kutcher) goes to Los Angeles, hoping to sleep his way into a life of privilege. He has sex with a flurry of women.

First, he has sex with a rich cougar (Heche), so he can live indefinitely in her swanky penthouse. Then he has sex with a slew of bimbos - all wannabe actors and models - in a series of glamorous, meaningless encounters.

In time, the playboy starts to feel hollow. Until one day, he meets a young waitress and discovers she is a Bimbo With Soul. They don't have sex, instead, they make love.

You get the picture. You know where this is going. The playboy's going to learn the infantile lesson that love gives meaning to life, not sex.

Well, not quite.

In Spread, the young waitress leaves the playboy and ends up marrying a rich businessman. Because when all is said and done, she feels Money is still more important than Soul.

Now that's a statement. Parsing the scenes of botoxed eroticism and dull, B-grade glamour, I now begin to see Spread as almost self-reflexive in its portrayal of Hollywood society.

I would have panned the movie completely if not for director David Mackenzie's stubbornness in seeing his existential theme through to the end.

Yes, I said 'existential'.

Because as I watched Kutcher's playboy swagger aimlessly across the city, I was surprised to find myself being reminded of Benjamin Braddock of The Graduate. The tragedy of Kutcher's playboy is that he's Benjamin without the college degree.

Which isn't to say that Kutcher pulls off a Dustin Hoffman. Or that Mackenzie's film is otherwise comparable to Mike Nichol's masterpiece.

Spread is an awful film with an awful thing to say. Now that's something - a Hollywood Nasty with an unexpected edge.

About Ken
Ken Kwek is a screenwriter and playwright. His film credits include the award-winning documentary, The Ballad of Vicki and Jake (2005), The Blue Mansion, directed by Glen Goei, and Kidnapper (2010), directed by Kelvin Tong. His latest play, The Composer, will be staged at The Esplanade Theatre Studio in December this year.