Published Aug 13, 2009From the get-go, Nikki (Ashton Kutcher) is set up for the audience to hate, professing his good looks and charm (assets that are debatable), when not offering up gems of wisdom about how to manipulate women, commenting occasionally on their pubic grooming habits (a trajectory strangely maintained, vividly, throughout the film). He's a vapid asshole that preys on human weakness for sustenance and at his core, is little more than a boring life-support system for a dick.
This is why, no matter how smartly David Mackenzie presents the lifestyle and motivations, a third act effort to get viewers to invest in the character's outcome fails. Up until that point, however, Spread succeeds in its detached, analytical goals, delivering a perverse and mildly oedipal look at surface lifestyles driven solely by fiscal gain and the avoidance of manhood.
There isn't much in terms of plot, as Nikki meets his meal ticket, Samantha (Anne Heche), at the beginning of the film, weaselling his way into a full-time role as houseboy, banging any other willing body that passes behind her back. In a deceptively clever manner, their relationship is summed up through a series of rather explicit, but passionless, sex scenes, while Samantha knowingly ignores the reality she's quietly all too aware of.
A latter romance with a waitress named Heather (Margarita Levieva) acts as a turning point for Nikki, fulfilling a necessary character arc, but is strangely unwelcome, given how satisfying it is to see Nikki fail and get insulted. It's interesting to watch the process of normalization through modes of equality, implying that relationships cannot be true with an imbalance in finances or aesthetics, but nothing more, as we can only identify with secondary characters, and at a distance.
The cold, psychological framework of Spread, crafted mainly for art-house audiences, will certainly perturb rom-com lovers and Kutcher fans, but at the very least, people everywhere can check "watched Ashton Kutcher shave Rachel Blanchard's (Cher, from television's Clueless) vagina" off their bucket list. (TVA)