City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

Spreading The Love at the EIFF

By Dylan Matthew - Posted on 22 June 2009

EIFF 2009: Spread

A team of road maintenance specialists set upon my head this morning with a pneumatic drill accompanied by a klaxon like siren at the ungodly hour of 8am. Honestly, do normal people get up at this time? I lay there trying to remember who I was, why I was and what could have possessed me to set my alarm this early when it was patently obvious I was going to feel this way at this time.

This is the fault of the party that was thrown last night for Rudi Y Cursi, Carlos Cuaron's Mexican tale starring the dimunitive, but hot property, double-bill that is Gael Garcia Bernal and Diego Luna.

Alan Cumming and Kerry Fox were amongst the hob-nobs present but I guess the cute little guy from The Motorcycle Diaries was busy. No, hold the fort, breaking news folks: I've just been told that handsome pair - Gael and Diego were here. I just didn't see them. Just pretend that I did, that I danced the night away with them and walked them up Arthur's Seat, beers in hands at 4am to show them the whole city below.

Yeah, so anyway, the alarm's going off and I remembered my raison d'etre, sprung into action, ran across the damn tramworks in Princes Street (and got shouted at by men in yellow vests) still pulling my shirt and EIFF badge on so I could get to the early screening of David Mackenzie's new film Spread. I arrived in the nick of time clutching eight espressos and a saline drip on wheels. Luckily it was worth the hassle.

Spread is Mackenzie's slickest, most easily enjoyable and most commercial film to date. While less existentialist than Young Adam (his finest work so far) and less intense than Hallam Foe's rites of passage, its main theme and protagonist retains the repressed loneliness and internalised suffering of the unconventional anti-heroes of those earlier films. Spread is an American Gigolo of sorts crossed with a hint of the recent Audrey Tatou starrer Priceless.

Spread (the title refers to the wealthy homes he manages to settle in) is a straight drama that occasionally veers into comedy with Ashton Kutcher in easily his best big screen performance to date. Well cast as (himself?) a vacuous but charming male bimbo, this Lothario knows little about anything with much depth but a lot about seduction and how to live La Dolce Vita.

He picks up rich lonely older women at parties, makes them fall in love with him and then lies back by the pool to soak up the rays with smug triumph and satisfaction. When they suss him out or he gets caught shagging someone else, he moves on to new prey. He doesn't care about his patrons and has only one real friend. He sounds unlikeable, but he's strangely persuasive, charming and we root for him.

It's a straightforward premise. We see him in action with his skilful, confident moves reading body language and knowing just what to say in the right way at the right moment. When he is rebuffed, he knows how to turn it to his advantage. He quickly and confidently gets what he wants and half the entertainment of Spread is the details of the blagging and the gentle persistent hustling.

The film opens with Kutcher's Nicki attending a swinging up-market party in poshville. An impressive steadicam shot takes us around the party in a one-er as he knocks back all the gorgeous young things that hit on him and settles on the older, lonelier Samantha played by Anne Heche. He takes up residence with her and plays it out for as long as he can, squeezing every drop of food, clothing and credit card abuse that he can. He throws a good party too at Samantha's expense when she leaves town for a few days.

Inevitably it can't last and Nicki bumps into coffee waitress Heather (Margarita Levieva) finally meeting his match in the game of love and seduction, gradually falls in love and learns some tough lessons about who he is.

Ultimately, this is a film about loneliness, about the fear of real intimacy and commitment. It's all delivered with style, a toe-tapping soundtrack, a fair dose of humour, nice observations and good performances particularly from Anne Heche who's understated brilliance made me wish she'd had a more significant role.

Spread screens tonight (22nd June) at Cineworld at 8.30 and at 9pm on the 24th again at Cineworld.

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Hi Dylan! Been reading your blog for some time; thanks for the great review on this film. Living here in the States its hard for me to get info on work by Scottish film makers, esp about David Mackenzie who is brilliant, so thanks much for this. Looking forward to the rest of your reports from the festival.
Sue at