Spread—in which Ashton Kutcher graphically screws his way to the middle in Hollywood—is surely one of the most commercial films at Sundance this year. It is also like Shampoo, but for awful people.
Nikon pitchman Kutcher plays Nikki, who is basically the worst sort of Hollywood douchebag imaginable: the Les Deux-bag. Outfitted in skinny suspenders and a leering grin, he's a gigolo/user, wooing women simply so he can have a place to stay (and a beautiful pad ton seduce his next conquest when the current flame goes out of town). Early on, he uses his charms to install himself in Anne Heche's palatial Beachwood Canyon home, but eventually he falls for a Fred 62 waitress (!) (also, played by newcomer Margarita Levieva) who's his wily match.
The gist of Spread is that Nikki isn't as wise as he thinks he is—especially when he's finally struck by love. Unfortunately, neither is the movie. Filled with Kutcher's froggy, meaningless narration ("You're three times as likely to get laid if there's a bed in the room"—no shit, Sherlock), it's a real drag, livened up only occasionally by scenes in which Kutcher and Heche athletically reenact the Kama Sutra. Nikki is supposed to be a mystery who needy women project onto, but the movie squanders our interest by explaining every tic, line, and pickup in voiceover. There's a reason why Warren Beatty said hardly anything in Shampoo—his very placidity made him an irresistible enigma.
We suppose director David Mackenzie (Young Adam) intended Spread to be sort of love letter to Los Angeles (or perhaps a truncated, late-night text), but its location shooting and glamorous tracking shots can't make up for its lack of verisimilitude. No native would ever call Fred 62 "a coffee shop," and there's no reason the young, peripatetic Levieva would have a landline phone and answering machine except so that Kutcher could overhear an important call. There's only one moment the film gets right, and it rings truer than any of the seduction and blossoming love on-screen. After their first hookup, Kutcher nudges Levieva at the crack of dawn. "I gotta move your car," he says. "It's street cleaning."