BluRay/DVD Reviews


By • Nov 27th, 2009 •

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On the commentary track Toback castigates everyone who has said to him that this film could have been a stage play. He refers to all the close-ups of the three main characters which say as much as the dialogue, and couldn’t have been seen adequately from theater seats during a live performance.

I don’t really buy that, but I do think that the cinematography, highlighted so beautifully in this BluRay pressing, communicates something special to us that wouldn’t have been possible on a stage set. These three actors look so razor-sharp, compelling (Downey), and drop dead gorgeous (the girls), that I can’t get enough of them – and it’s a good thing, because the script, which was written passionately in less than two weeks, is a psychodrama in which many of the confrontations feel familiar, and the introduction of the Downey character’s mother serves little purpose except when he performs Hamlet for the jilted ladies late in the film and refers to Hamlet’s mother, leaving us to wonder if the lying actor’s sexual drive is somehow related to a similar Shakespearian situation (Toback says it’s “…a movie about oedipal obsession”). Both his mother’s picture and that of the two girls (interchangeable on one sheet of paper) sit on his piano.

James Toback is a fascinating indie writer/director. By now one knows what to expect from him when they sit down to tackle one of his films. Limited budgets equaling limited shooting schedules, autobiographical material (Downey pins him down on that during the commentary when Toback says he wrote it for the actor – “I’m glad you wrote it for me, knowing I’d be playing you.”), verbal sparring, sudden sexual or physical activity . There is a pleasing continuity to his work, and I actually don’t find this substantively different from his powerful TYSON documentary this year. TWO GIRLS AND A GUY is not one of my favorites among his canon, and yet it is an extreme gift from him to allow me to gaze back, ten years ago now, on Heather Graham’s flawless face for 84 minutes.

For the record, IMDB says that the film cost an estimated million bucks and made about double that in the US alone. That means it almost broke even here. Good news, if we’re to believe IMDB, which is always at the mercy of its sources. Toback states that it was an 11-day intensive shoot. 95% of it takes place in one location with only three actors, so the shooting schedule proved to be more than enough.

Downey plays an actor returning from a professional engagement, only to find two current girlfriends hiding in his apartment, both of who have just discovered that he’s been seeing them simultaneously while claiming to be monogamous. Downey’s sleazy rationales and back-peddling as they cross-examine him is terribly demeaning to the male sex in the way it unambiguously focuses on the character as a metaphor for all our baser instincts. At times it feels very LAST TANGO IN PARIS – where Brando bullshited his way endlesslly through nothing more lofty than a desire to get laid in a time of grief, even continuing to try to talk after he’s effectively been killed. And yet I have to admit, I’d be more offended at Toback’s depiction of male motivation if it weren’t generally so on the money. (Toback finds Downey’s character fundamentally likeable; perhaps that’s because of the autobiographical proximity between the character and the director). At one point in the commentary track, as Downey is watching footage of Natasha Wagner, who is also present for the talk, says “I like Natasha’s ass in those pants.” She replies “Thank you.”

The BluRay offers two versions. The NC-17 certainly appears to show some formidable and rarely-if-ever-seen-before-in-any-other-movie sex between Downey and Graham (on the comnmentary track, Downey admits “I had a boner”), but the lighting’s so low key in this sequence, I felt cheated and teased, and would rather have seen the “R.” That was an unearned NC-17 if I ever saw (or rather, couldn’t see) one.

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