A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this mature Ashton Kutcher dramedy is an interesting take on beautiful L.A. and all its associated ugliness -- but it's definitely not for kids. Expect lots of fairly graphic sex scenes (including naked breasts and buttocks), some swearing (including "s--t" and "f--k"), and pervasive materialism (with all of the associated high-end labels). The lead character -- who's essentially a gigolo -- does go through a sort of reinvention borne out of a realization that what he has isn’t what he wants, but he's still not exactly what you'd call a role model.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
Nikki (Ashton Kutcher) has found the key to survival in glamorous Los Angeles: He picks up older, affluent women and shacks up with them, romancing them as they support him. His latest conquest is Samantha (Anne Heche), a lawyer afraid of aging who’s willing to go along with his scheme. But when he meets a waitress, Heather (Margarita Levieva), who knows his game and -- more importantly -- plays it even better than he does, Nikki is smitten. But can they find real love?
Is it any good?
Hey, Ashton: Richard Gere called, and he wants his boy-toy role back; after all, Gere did it much more justice in American Gigolo. Though Kutcher gets major points for style and effort, there's little nuance to his performance. He's either callow or captivated when, really, he ought to be both. Still, he has charm, and it’s believable that women would house him, feed him, and keep him willingly, even if he has no job, no car, or no intent to commit. (His sexual prowess appears to be the main hook.)
Levieva is sexy, but Heche rules. She's one of those perfectly coiffed women who both age and don't age at the same time; their flawlessness is a dead giveaway that they'll go to any length -- even very delicate surgery -- to stay intact. Heche doesn't overplay; her character's desperation simmers until it boils, scalding on impact. SPREAD is entertaining enough -- it’s stylish and captures L.A.'s peculiar-yet-compelling allure -- but it doesn't have much to add to the cinematic conversation. And when it moves Nikki toward redemption, it loses the little edge it had. We don't much care if he changes or not, so what’s the point in cheering him on?
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how the movie portrays sex and relationships. Parents, if your teens watch, be sure to discuss the real-life consequences of sex, as well as your own family's values on the subject.
Why does Nikki do what he does? Is his life as enviable as it might seem to outside observers? Why does he start to struggle with himself?
What's the movie's take on society’s obsession with material trappings? Is this trend exaggerated for effect in the movie, or do you think this is really how some people live?
- In theaters: August 14, 2009
- On DVD or streaming: November 10, 2009
- Cast: Anne Heche, Margarita Levieva
- Director: David Mackenzie
- Studio: Anchor Bay Entertainment
- Genre: Comedy
- Run time: 97 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: strong sexual content, nudity and language
- Last updated: March 14, 2020
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