From the opening voiceover, Kutcher is a revelation as manipulative narcissistic Nikki. He's an amoral aspiring model whose dreams of fame have crumbled and he's forced to seduce rich, middle-aged women just to fund his hedonistic lifestyle and keep himself under a roof. (There's gotta be a life imitating art gag in there somewhere). A huge departure from his previous goofy roles, Kutcher's transformation renders him almost unrecognisable. It's not such a change in look, but a change in attitude. The guy can actually act!
As the latest victim of Nikki's seduction, 40ish lawyer Samantha, Anne Heche sheds plenty of clothes - but more importantly strips the character's psyche bare. The pair both use each other for various purposes of self-gratification, although it's not too long before the cruel (and amusing) barbs about penis size start flying around as Samantha becomes increasingly insecure about Nikki's misdemeanours.
Heche's raw portrayal of a woman desperate to stay young by association provides a perfect foil to Kutcher's vibrancy. At one stage she even undergoes a vaginal rejuvenation procedure through fear of her aging body becoming offputting for her sexual partner. It's both savagely funny and terribly sad at the same time, which serves as an apt description for Spread itself.
A further spanner is thrown into the works when a seemingly unattainable young waitress (Leviava) catches Nikki's eye and he craves some real affection for a change. But he's in for a big shock, for a well-executed twist throws his world into turmoil and his real soul finally starts to emerge from beneath the superficial exterior he's created.
Hallam Foe director David Mackenzie's rarely static camerawork roves in and encircling Nikki as the homeless user lurks around various properties that aren't his own. The effect is that we sense how the young man is effectively trapped within his environment, and by his selfish aspirations too. As the narrative progresses, with some great visual humour chucked in along the way, it starts to run out of steam as it nears the home straight. There's a brief sense of the movie not knowing what kind of endings to give to the undeserving characters. Fortunately, one final burst of inspiration steers it back on track.
The very impressive Spread deserves to be a cherished gem. The lack of sympathetic characters might be hard for some moviegoers to bear, but the performances of Kutcher and Heche in this offbeat flick along with Mackenzie's deft eye ensure that we're absorbed in the emotionally cold world they inhabit. The movie also contains one of the greatest closing shots ever - with one simple image involving a certain household pet symbolising all that's been witnessed before.
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