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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.
How much money does Ashton Kutcher have? Is it ALL of the money? He’s got to at least have most of it, right? I mean, That ’70s Show is still popular in syndication, there was Dude Where’s My Car?, which I think some people must have liked OK, and he both produced and starred in PUNK’D, which despite anything else you might say about it, was a very big hit. Then there are those really stupid Nikon ads where he is, like, stealing cameras out of women’s purses in hotel lobbies and taking pictures of his dick or whatever. (LOL?) On top of all that, of course, there is the weekly allowance that Demi Moore gives him after he’s finished his chores. The point is, Ashton Kutcher has lots of money. So when trying to come up with a reason for why on Earth he (or anyone else, really) would star in the movie Spread, it feels like money can’t be the motivating factor. Besides, the movie looks like it was pretty cheap to make, so I’m not even sure BIG BUCKS was an option. So clearly something else is at work here. My guess: Ashton Kutcher lost a bet. Or maybe it was a dare. “I dare you to make Spread.” “Oh, you are on, son!” (In my head, Ashton Kutcher ends most sentences with the word “son,” even when he is talking to his mom, or his wife who is as old as his mom.) Whether or not it’s true that Ashton Kutcher starred in Spread because he lost a bet, it certainly feels true. It kind of feels like we ALL lost a bet on this one.
Spread is about a very handsome young man named Nikki living in Los Angeles. We know this because the very first line of the movie is an Ashton Kutcher voice over explaining that he is very handsome and lives in Los Angeles. This sort of sets up the narrative development of the rest of the movie. If the writers/director thought it was important information for you to have, someone will just say it to you directly with zero subtlety so that you don’t get confuzed. Anyway, Ashton Kutcher moved to Los Angeles to live in beautiful mansions and drive fancy cars and sleep with models, again, all of this explained in voice over, and now he is doing that, he says, but you get the feeling that something’s weird about it. He says it weird, you know? Well, what is weird about it is that Nikki is actually homeless and broke, so the way that he lives in beautiful mansions and drives fancy cars and sleeps with models is by preying on wealthy women and fucking his way into their stuff. Uh oh! I’ve already got some problems with the basic logical tenets holding together the plot of this movie!
Anyways, he has recently stopped sleeping with one wealthy woman in order to live in her mansion, so now he needs to find another wealthy woman and sleep with her in order to live in her mansion. There is this one club that he goes to regularly that is just filled with beautiful, wealthy women who very much want to sleep with someone and pay for their clothes? Is this a real club? Where is this club? Ashton Kutcher sees Anne Heche and is like “Bingo!” Two minutes later, he is fucking Anne Heche in the ass. And when I say fucking I mean FUCKING. This movie is very graphic! Children, leave the room! The adults are watching a terrible movie that even you would find plenty of fault with in terms of the emotional reality and the plausibility of some of the dramatic developments. Within five minutes of fucking Anne Heche in the ass, then cumming on her face while she's begging him to fuck her some more, he has apparently moved into Anne Heche’s incredible mansion. Sure. I mean, the idea of a very wealthy, very powerful, independent woman trusting a stranger to just live in her multi-million dollar mansion in the Hollywood Hills immediately after making the initial poor decision of sleeping with him after meeting him at a club is very insulting to women and difficult to believe in general, but it’s clearly important to keep the story moving so sure. I mean, if Nikki doesn’t prove what he is capable of, then how will he ever meet his match?
Soon, he meets his match. She is a waitress at a diner. Oh, wait, before that we see what happens when Nikki meets a new woman. He moves in. He orders sandwiches on her credit card. And milk?
She takes him clothes shopping. Eventually, they are boyfriend and girlfriend, which honestly seems like more work than just actually doing work, but anyway, she invites him to come with her to New York, but he says he can’t, so she lets him live in her mansion alone? This guy she does not know at all? Cool lady. Definitely deserves to own nice things. Nikki, in classic Nikki fashion, throws a giant party while she’s gone in order to…trick other women…into sleeping with him…in exchange for more sandwiches and glasses of milk or something? Anyway, that’s basically what Nikki is about. Sandwiches and milk and blowjobs. (WHO ISN’T?!) But then, like I said, he meets his match.
She is a young waitress at a diner who is NOT impressed with his flirting. So, in order to win her over, he writes his number on his check and then…leaves the diner without paying?! And eventually she comes to his house angrily to get the 9 dollars or whatever? No. This is the part where the movie really starts flying off the rails because even though everything else was unbelievable and stupid, it was all within the world of mansions and Hermes, and who really knows what goes on in there, but I know for a fact that a waitress making minimum wage who is unimpressed by your flirting is definitely NOT going to find it cute when you run out on the bill you stupid piece of shit, that is what she is going to call you, a stupid piece of shit, and you will never see her again, but if you do, she will murder you. Anyway, Nikki eventually wins a date with her (before the food arrives, he is going on this loud rant about CAMP DAVID?) but she is playing very hard to get and also she drives a Porsche even though she is a waitress at a diner, and eventually it will turn out that she is basically the female version of Nikki, but she will actually have to tell him this to his face, he will never figure it out on his own.
Oh brother. Meanwhile, in case you have forgotten, he is still having VERY GRAPHIC SEX with Anne goddamn Heche (?!) CONSTANTLY. I don't want to see my childhood role model getting fucked in the ass, getting her tits grabbed while taking cock all the way through until getting choked by some douchebag! Damnit.
Eventually, Nikki breaks up with Anne Heche who really lets him have it for all of the ways in which he has been exploiting her, even though if you think about it they have both been exploiting each other (don’t bother thinking about it). But Nikki doesn’t have anywhere to go! Oh no! There is this long montage where he is just wandering the streets of Los Angeles, trying to sell his Prada shoes at a thrift store, and having a melt down, and it is very confusing because I thought his whole thing was that he was constantly just moving from one woman to the next because that’s how he stays off the streets? So why is he so surprised to be homeless when in reality he has been homeless the whole time? Surely this can’t be the first time he’s had it a little rough? Very very confusing. I would say something like “strike 2!” or “STRIKE 3 YER OUT!” but honestly at this point we just have to play this game through until the end.
Oh, I have not even mentioned that Nikki has a friend, Harry, played by the dude who played Carter Baizen on Gossip Girl and Winter Soldier in The Avengers and that this is hilarious because if you will recall, what Nikki does is move from one predatory relationship with a beautiful rich woman to another, without ever having any money or mailing address, but he just has a friend? Who we’re supposed to think is, like, a pretty regular, cool enough dude with a good head on his shoulders who just happens to be friends with a nightmare male prostitute? What? What is this friendship? Do they gchat every day? What’s going on here? If one of my friends started doing even the most basic of Nikki’s behaviors (fucking Anne Heche intensely hard until her pussy popps out) I would block them on Facebook.
So, Heather catches Nikki turning tricks with a woman at a hotel pool (fingering her under a towel I’m not joking what is this movie?) for a sandwich and a glass of milk (no joke).
Now they are best friends and now they are sex friends and now they are in love.
He moves in with her. They team up and turn tricks with wealthy people together for awhile. But now they are thinking about giving up the life all together, maybe. One morning, Heather gets a package from DHL (cool product placement!) filled with rose petals and Nikki comes out on the porch to find her crying. She explains that she’s going to break up with her fiance. Wait, she has a fiance? Yes, she is engaged to THE OWNER OF THE NEW YORK RANGERS HAHAHHA WHAT IS UUUUUUUPPPPPPP?! Nikki is angry that she had a fiance, but she explains that she is going to break it off because she is in love with Nikki now. For some reason, he gets mad about this and storms off? Oy. When he comes back (after a half hour) she has gone to New York to figure things out. Stuff happens. Don’t worry about it. There are 15 minutes that I think are supposed to be funny? Like a comedy? Where Nikki, like, rallies his troops to help him win Heather, and they get him a cheap engagement ring and drive him to the airport and are like “GOOD LUCK, BUDDY!” It’s a really weird 15 minutes because it shows that someone seems to think this is a romantic comedy and it’s not a romantic comedy. Anyway, he goes to New York to get Heather back, but she is living in a mansion now and she is like “you shouldn’t have come here,” and he tries to explain to her that they are in love and they shouldn’t be together, at which point she says: “You’re a dreamer, and it scares me.” Is he? IS HE A DREAMER? Please, Heather, in what way is your male prostitute boyfriend with one earring and a frayed backpack a DREAMER? Again, he urges her to come back with him, at which point she lays out the movie’s whole philosophy. “What are we going to do?” she asks. “Get an apartment? They’ll want first and last month plus security deposit. That’s five grand. Where are we going to get five grand? Be realistic!” So, just to explain what is happening here, life is made up of two options: either you have enough money for the security deposit on an apartment, or you have to trick the owner of the New York Rangers into marrying you. Those are the only options.
It would be worth pointing out that they already HAVE AN APARTMENT back in Los Angeles, where they were JUST LIVING TOGETHER two minutes ago, but just kidding, why would that be worth pointing out? No, it’s worthless. Ding dong, it turns out Heather already married the dude. He walks in and Heather pretends that Nikki is the grocery delivery boy.
Awww. And I really wanted these two horrible characters who use sex to manipulate and rob people to stay together! So, Nikki goes back to Los Angeles and ACTUALLY BECOMES A GROCERY DELIVERY BOY (uhhhhhhhh) and then he feeds a mouse to a frog and the movie ends. Like, the end credits play over footage of a frog eating a mouse. That can’t be real? That is real.
Obviously, this movie makes no sense. But far more important is the question: who on Earth could possibly want this? A movie that features 45 solid minutes of Ashton Kutcher just RAILING Anne Heche? How did that pitch meeting go? “There are going to be 45 solid minutes of Ashton Kutcher just fucking RAILING Anne Heche.” “Who do I make this novelty sized check for 100 billion dollars out to?” It’s genuinely confusing. I cannot for the life of me imagine a single kind of person who would actually want this. I’m sure the original concept of the movie was basically OUR generation’s Midnight Cowboy, but a) no, and b) Midnight Cowboy isn’t actually that good, our generation probably doesn’t need its own?
The question of who could possibly have WANTED this movie looms large and unanswerable, but there are plenty of smaller questions that are equally impossible to answer. Like, how come when Nikki and Heather are eating a fancy dinner they can’t afford, and in order to get out of the bill, Nikki slips a piece of tinfoil in his mouth and then pretends like it was in the food, and then Heather says “Waiter, I don’t want to cause a scene, but there is garbage in his food, we’re leaving,” how come no one stops them? Because you can’t just do that? Like, maybe the restaurant will comp you a bottle of wine, or if you’re lucky, they might even comp your meal, if you’re lucky, but you can’t just say “we’re leaving” and walk out? How come all of this movie’s short cons revolve around skipping out on restaurant bills? And some of the questions I have already raised, like who is the “normal friend” of a “male prostitute”? What’s that all about? And how come Nikki is so completely dejected and miserable when he leaves Anne Heche’s house because he’s homeless when I thought the whole premise of the movie is that that is what he does? Why doesn’t he just get another Anne Heche?
Perhaps the answer to all of these questions are more simple than we think. Perhaps the answer to all of these questions is: who cares, this movie is very stupid and very very lazy. At one point, one of Nikki’s ex-girlfriends says “You’re a good person, Nikki, this [being a whore thing] can’t make you feel good.” Except, there is nothing that happens at any point in the whole movie that suggests he’s a good person. The only way we know he is a good person is because someone says it one time, without even bothering to give an explanation. Right. He’s a great person, I’m sure! (He is a despicable shithead.)
To be fair (to the make believe character?) everyone in the movie is horrible. Nikki is obviously horrible, but so is Anne Heche, and so is Heather. What a clown car full of terrible monsters. But if everyone is horrible, and trust me, everyone is horrible, then you can’t actually care what happens to any of them, and we don’t. At the end of the movie, everyone is basically miserable. Now, this is one of the ways to end a movie, and one could even argue that it’s truer to life in the sense that a lot of times the guy doesn’t get the girl, or whatever, and things don’t end neatly with everyone getting married. The problem with this interpretation is that nothing in this movie is even remotely close to depicting real life, so the idea that a sad ending is somehow more truthful doesn’t really hold water. So, it’s just a sad collection of poorly imagined lies with a sad poorly imagined ending. Neat!
Yes I like this movie I like how sexy Aston is and his deep voice .the rating is r and I expect it to be that way. It’s about a cute rich guy be he’s not happy that’s what I believe it’s about. You know a movie where there are parties and sex? It’s an alright movie.
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?