Dir. David Mackenzie
Cast: Ashton Kutcher, Anne Heche
U.S. Release date: Aug. 14, 2009
Bodies Being Bodies
Review by Diego
Costa, from Paris
Ashton Kutcher's missed chance of evolving from Alpha Male prankster to Alpha
Male twitterer to cult actor. This butchered fable of boulevards of broken dreams
embraces every cliché on the guidebook, when all it had to do was seize
the most obvious of them all - the objectified star.
Kutcher plays Nikki,
in a role usually reserved for women, which involves having sex with the opposite
sex for room and board - and the occasional Hermès shirt. When women
do it, they are called whores; when Ashton Kutcher does it he is a "womanizer."
The Los Angeles
of Spread is the Los Angeles of the collective unconscious: a playground
for all things ersatz, a Las Vegas for the long-term. "Dream and nightmare
inextricably meshed together," said Jérôme Momcilovic on his
review of the film (which has the much better title "Toy Boy" in France),
a "blooming shop window for the decadent and the terminal of America."
Life consisting of driving someone else's convertible, partying at someone else's
penthouse, sleeping at someone else's bed: fucking everyone, owning nothing
but borrowing everything. The epitome of the society of consumption: disposable
disguises for disposable selves. Never stopping, never reflecting, always postponing,
always projecting. Personhood reduced to the body as the only thing one has
to offer. The body as both meat and (faux-) silver platter.
One doesn't have
to be Judith Butler to realize these aren't just the rules of LA-on-film, but
the rule of "women" as merchandise whose exchange makes the real world
go around. The concept of the movie is interesting exactly because it flirts
with idea of the male body as consumable good, even if so timidly.
This is not the
first time LA plays stage to a role-reversal game of the oldest profession on
Earth, except that when Bruce LaBruce did it in Hustler White (1996),
he went all the way, fetishizing Tony Ward's body the way only an impotent voyeur
could. In Spread, Kutcher's torso isn't really hidden, but his butt somehow
elicits laughter from the audience. He is more unabashed buffoon than objectified
muse. In fact, this is precisely where the film stops being an interesting concept
and falls victim to the same old rules of formulaic Hollywood comedies. The
camera is never quite comfortable treating Kutcher as an object, as if he could
somehow be both merchandise and customer, as if the heterosexual male body were
immune to complete objectification. No matter how used, it always has enough
agency in it to never lose control.
to feature Los Angeles as one ghost-character casting its shadow on all the
other players in the room. While LaBruce's Los Angeles felt claustrophobic and
fatalistic in an organic and subtle way, director David Mackenzie's LA is constructed
via Kutcher's sometimes witty, often forced, voiceover narration. But Mackenzie
fails to fetishize even the city, quickly bringing in a barrage of attractive
women and Hollywood clichés to claim LA's turf.
Los Angeles sun scorched its characters into uncontrollable hedonistic behavior
(from bloody back-stabbing to consensual gang-raping), Mackenzie's Los Angeles
is peopled with those who show up for life already knowing its script - and
its backstory. Which makes them predictable and paper-thin. And a "de facto"
paper-thinness isn't as interesting as a pretended one, for we all know there
has got to be some flesh behind all that plastic.
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