Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2009

Two Girls and a Guy

Postmodern War of the Sexes

By David Luhrssen
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The 1998 film Two Girls and a Guy (out now on Blu-ray) is almost an updated screwball comedy—if the genre could exist in an era without nuance or suggestion, verbally and sexually explicit, when anything can be said or shown. The plot kicker is the stuff of hilarious hijinks as two beautiful women, waiting outside a New York apartment, gradually realize they came to surprise the same man, who told each that he loves only her. The wit and speed of the dialogue is worthy of Howard Hawks and a cast of Cary Grant, Katherine Hepburn and Rosalind Russell.

But writer-director James Toback (who recently filmed the documentary Tyson) also staged TGG as a thorny theater piece exploring the ethics of truth and falsehood, along with lust and romance from several positions. It’s a feast of great acting. Robert Downey Jr. is unforgettable as the self-made actor-jerk who lies with every breath he takes—at least to any woman not his mother—and arranges his life as if it were a play. Reality intrudes in the form of the two women he has juggled for many months. Natasha Gregson Wagner plays the zany but resourceful one and Heather Graham the dreamier, more idealistic girl. Both badger and provoke him to answer the question: who are you and who do you think we are?

For much of the movie, the theme seems to be: guys are such dicks. But the possibility of surrender to love is never discounted. The Blu-ray has both the theatrical and the NC-17 version.

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