|Nikki: one suspender, twice the sexy
"It's a business doing pleasure."
...and business is g-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-d. Hey, though, you know what's not good? Spread! This flick stars Ashton Kutcher as a vapid, talentless underwear-model-type in L.A. who shrugs off working since it's easier to just mooch off a successful older woman instead. There's a whole quid pro quo thing going on here: she spreads her legs, and her fuck doll gets to lounge around a multimillion dollar spread that he can pass off as his own. See? Spread! Lotsa meanings bubbling under the surface, and I think I already missed my shot to drop in a really obvious joke about Demi Moore. Oh well.
"I don't wanna be arrogant here, but I'm an incredibly attractive man. I can't help it. I don't try to be. I just am. When I was a kid, my mutha's best friend used to tell me that I was gonna be a little heartbreaker. Turns out she was right. My mom came home from work one day and found us fuckin' on the Stairmaster."
So, that's how we're first introduced to Nikki (@ashtonkutcher). Just try to imagine Ashton belting that out in a froggy Noo Joisey drawl that really wants to tack "Mistah Kottah" onto the end of every line. Oh, and he's rocking a pastel T-shirt, a spike-studded belt, a Dolce scarf, and fucking suspenders for pretty much the entire movie. Guess that's what does the trick because Nikki...well, he's a chick magnet if you know what I mean. He knows just what to say when it comes to the ladies...knows how to make a girl smile...how to drive a girl crazy. There
are flings, though, and then there's business. Samantha (Anne Heche)...? That's business. Nikki has this fortysomething lawyer type made from word one, and he's sharp enough at manipulating his marks to be able to dupe Sam into thinking that she's using him. In exchange for the occasional frenzied fuck, Nikki has free reign on her AmEx black, gets to tool around in her Mercedes, and has one of the most stunning views of the heart of Los Angeles from her $5 million pad. Not a bad gig if you can swing it.
|If you wanna ride that UFO to the Fourth Dimension, Nikki, you need to get up now.
Nikki's a chronic user. He doesn't have any real friends, just resources he can ring up and exploit. He doesn't have any genuine attachments. If Sam were to throw him out on his ass, Nikki wouldn't have a car to putter around in (and nobody walks in L.A.!) or a place to hang his head at night. (In other words, he's just a gigolo, and he ain't got nobody.) For the moment, at least, he has it pretty good, though...doesn't have to think, doesn't have to try, doesn't have to work. His daily checklist doesn't pile on much more than eating, drinking, swimming, and fucking. All he really has to do is keep his dick in his pants when Samantha's out and about, but I guess Nikki wonders what the point of being in a $5 million spread is if he can't use it as a ploy to get laid.
So anyway, Nikki keeps playing The Game even though it could cost him the score of a lifetime. Conflict #1! Sammy walks in on the guy who she thought was the love of her life getting blown. Conflict #2! She's more than a little creepily obsessed with the kid. Conflict #3! Nikki falls in love. The thing is that Heather (Margarita Levieva) toys with Nikki...she knows all of his moves 'cause she uses every one of 'em herself. Now it's Nikki on the receiving end of the whole unrequited love thing, and Spread very briefly threatens to get interesting. Of course, it all devolves into an oversized "fly across the country and get her back!!!!" climax, but whatever.
"When I first came here, I thought every day was gonna be a Van Halen video: hot chicks wearin' bikinis on rollerskates, drinkin' cocktails by the pool. Damn you, Van Halen."
I guess it kinda goes without saying that Spread's dialogue doesn't exactly sparkle and gleam. Nikki's narration in particular would be howlingly bad regardless, especially all the gigolo tips and tricks on "creating equity", but the ridiculous accent he tosses on just makes it that much tougher to slog through with a straight face. At the same time, though, either Kutcher eases up on that throttle or I just got used to it pretty quickly. The accent isn't distracting throughout the entire movie, but those earliest lines...yikes. I literally laughed out loud the first time Nikki opens his mouth. Also, the screenplay gets demerits for referencing Prince's "Little Red Corvette" (although it confuses the lyrics to think the song's about a cock) but misses a golden opportunity to give a nod to "Darling Nikki". I figured that's the only conceivable reason Spread would have for saddling the guy with a name like that. I do think it's kind of interesting that Spread completely shifts to a different "love interest" halfway through, and the ending isn't what I expected at all, but otherwise, it's kind of goofy and routine. Spread is awfully heavy-handed as it whacks the "OBJECTIFYING
WOMEN IS WRONG!!!!" and "NIKKI DOESN'T REALIZE HOW LITTLE HE HAS UNTIL IT'S ALL GONE!!!!!" nails in the ground. Kutcher notes in the extras how open director David Mackenzie is to improvision, and it's pretty clear when he's riffing, thanks to a really fiery "you're a monkey!" insult when Nikki clues in that Heather isn't the clean-cut angel type he thought she was and some bizarrely excited shouting about spotting dolphins in the ocean.
|Once upon a time I was falling in love...
On the other hand, I've wasted most of my life waiting around to see five things:
Maybe Spread is kind of a wash overall, but I finally did get to live out my life's dream and experience all of that. To be fair, I guess, Spread isn't unwatchable or anything. It's just ridiculous enough to hold my interest, and it probably doesn't hurt that Spread is seasoned with so many smoldering six-second sex scenes. (...and Rachel Blanchard? Seriously, wow.) There's just not enough for me to latch onto to actually recommend it. I guess if you're one of the million-plus people following Ashton Kutcher on Twitter or whatever that you might find Spread worth a couple of clicks on Netflix, but otherwise...? Skip It.
- Ashton Kutcher getting blown by a girl in a football helmet
- A camera locked in place as Ashton Kutcher fucks Anne Heche from one side of the frame to the other
- A bare-assed Ashton Kutcher strutting around wearing a t-shirt, an apron, and nothing else
- Ashton Kutcher shaving the naughty bits of the girl who played Cher on the small-screen version of Clueless
- Ashton Kutcher kicked out of a ratty apartment for doing a Kermit the Frog impression
Eh, Spread looks okay in high-def. The presentation's completely fine: detail and definition are nothing breathtaking but are both still instantly recognizable as HD at a glance, its colors are reasonably robust, and there's just enough grain to remind you that this flick was shot on film. A few scattered shots are on the soft side, and some of the exteriors are kind of hazy (although...y'know, it is L.A.). Overall, though...? Spread looks solid but routine on Blu-ray, with nothing but the brilliant blues of Samantha's swimming pool managing to really leap off the screen.
Spread is letterboxed to preserve its original aspect ratio of 2.39:1, and its AVC encode spans both layers of this BD-50 disc.
For some reason, Spread is lugging around a 7.1 soundtrack, belted out here in 24-bit Dolby TrueHD. A movie this talky doesn't scream out for eight discrete channels so much, although Spread takes better advantage than I would've thought. The surrounds never really stop chattering, turning to the rear channels to flesh out how unrelentingly bustling L.A. is. There's a far stronger sense of directionality than most dialogue-driven dramas bother with, from the opening pan of a helicopter soaring overhead to the way the music shifts around as Nikki trots through a nightclub. The music might be the best thing about Spread, really. There's a pretty solid selection of licensed tracks, and I can't be miffed at any movie that works a theremin in as a swimming pool-centric cue. It's also responsible for pretty much every trace of bass in the mix. The songs and score are consistently full-bodied, and the low-end really starts thumping whenever Nikki's making the rounds at the clubs. Dialogue gets somewhat overwhelmed here and there but is generally balanced well in the mix. The sound design is a much stronger effort than I would normally have anticipated, and it's reproduced without any particularly noteworthy hiccups on Blu-ray.
Nope, no dubs or downmixes this time around. Aside from the commentary track, the only other audio options are subtitle streams in English (SDH) and Spanish.
All of Spread's extras are presented in high-def, but only the clips from the movie itself are in HD. Everything is upscaled from standard definition.
- Urban Sprawl: Los Angeles in Spread: Somewhat
unexpectedly, Spread serves up a running picture-in-picture video commentary with production designer Cabot McMullen and set decorator Beth Wooke. Along with their comments about shaping the look of L.A. in the film, the track also features behind the scenes footage, a CAD peek at Samantha's palatial pad, production stills, and even a map of the city pointing out where these locations were shot. This is really the only compelling extra on the disc, breezing through budgetary and scheduling demands limiting their options for finding just the right locations, a subtle visual reflection of the changing temperature in Nikki and Samantha's bedroom, and precisely what adjustments had to be made to some of these practical locations to accommodate the shoot. Both McMullen and Wooke detail at length how they initially approach their jobs, and they also touch on some of the clever ways they skirt around such a low budget, such as raiding a billboard graveyard to dress a New York-style loft. Even though I clearly didn't think much of Spread as a movie, I really enjoyed this extra, and it does give me a greater appreciation for much of what goes on behind the scenes in putting a project like this together.
|Wait, was this the glass they said had a cumshot on it in the commentary? I don't think I was actually looking at the screen at the time.
- Audio Commentary: Spread's commentary track teleconferences in stars Ashton Kutcher, Anne Heche, and Margarita Levieva, all recorded at the same time from thousands of miles apart. It's quippy, rambling, and completely random, and I liked this track at least a little more than I'd probably want to admit. The three of 'em do talk about the movie -- all of the Hal Ashby-isms sprinkled throughout, the specific challenge that drew Kutcher towards the project in the first place, why there aren't any real-life L.A. hot spots in front of the camera, and Kutcher explaining how he approached the sex scenes with each actress differently -- but the constant derailments are what really grabbed my attention. They tear off on tangents about why young kids really ought to give smoking a shot, pondering how great Levieva would or wouldn't be as a waitress, and debating how much you actually need to look at the road while driving. Other highlights are losing a cum streak on a glass (!) and explaining the kinda-sorta-logic behind the 'fairy tale' ending. This isn't a traditional commentary by any stretch, and there's no real substance to it at all, but if you like any of the personalities in front of the mic, you might find it worth a listen anyway.
- Living the Dream: The Making of Spread (16 min.; SD): "Living the Dream" never really breaks from the standard issue making-of featurette formula, lobbing out the usual mix of cheery interviews, candid behind-the-scenes snippets, and excerpts from the movie proper. Among the topics fielded here are how the story first came together, shooting the sex scenes, hammering out Los Angeles as a character in its own right, and shaping Nikki's distinctive look.
- Behind the Scenes with Ashton Kutcher (6 min.; SD): Pretty much
this whole thing is a heart-dotted-XOXO valentine to Ashton...the rest of the cast marveling at what a great guy-slash-actor he is, Ash-Ash touching on how he found the character...kind of hollow and self-congratulatory.
|I know, right?
- The World According to Nikki (4 min.; SD): Hey, it's Nikki's players guide! The differences between money spots and hot spots, scoping out your prey at a party, legs versus cleavage, how to fake dancing in the club, and just the right hair regimen...if VH1's The Pick-Up Artist wasn't enough of a Douchebaggery for Dummies instruction manual for you, here you go.
- Trailer (2 min.; HD): Last up is a high-def theatrical trailer. A high-def plug for Sunshine Cleaning has been tossed on here too.
Oh, and the second disc in the set is a digital copy that'll only work on Windows PCs.
The Final Word
Spread is kind of an indifferent shrug of a flick. It's not good in the sense of...y'know, good, but even with as ridiculous as Spread can be, the movie doesn't veer far enough off the deep end to make for much of a guilty pleasure either. It's just kind of there. There are plenty of pretty, naked people, though, so I guess there's that. Still...? I'd vote Skip It.