Postmodern American gigolo


A story as old as The Hills: Heche and Kutcher in Spread

Directed by David MacKenzie. Starring Ashton Kutcher, Anne Heche, Margarita Levieva 18 cert, gen release, 96 min

WHEN DID Californians all start croaking and drawling? The chirpy, musical accents from Clueless and Frank Zappa’s Valley Girl have been replaced by the sleepy, too-cool-for-school voice of MTV’s The Hills. The same bored drone also dominates Spread via Ashton Kutcher’s voiceover.

Kutcher plays Nikki, a young hustler seducing numerous women on various rungs of LA’s social ladder. Though officially homeless, he survives on the generosity and goodwill of his conquests, and even manages to stay for an extended period at the sprawling mansion of Samantha (Anne Heche), a wealthy older woman.

Kutcher and director David MacKenzie seem to be having a good time showing the benefits of Nikki’s lifestyle: he eats a cheeseburger in a private pool, he breezes past bouncers and nightclub queues, he receives fellatio while watching TV.

Nikki is a product of his time. With a strange sense of entitlement, he looks down his nose at people who work for a living (not even accepting a handshake from a delivery boy in one scene) and uses women as scratching posts and ATMs.

It’s all well and good to make a film about a selfish womaniser; Alfie (the original one) and Shampoo both showed were sex comedies with depth. But while Kutcher is surprisingly credible, he lacks the essential star quality that the young Michael Caine and Warren Beatty had. The casting of Kutcher, a real- life lover of an older, more famous woman, might be postmodern, but in a film like this, star quality is the difference between a charming rogue and a spoilt brat. When the cracks in Nikki’s existence finally begin to appear, it’s hard to care.

MacKenzie does leave us with an imaginative closing shot that represents LA’s ruthless food chain, but ultimately, Spread is a pretty, vacuous film about beauty and hollowness. Now that’s postmodern.