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Movie Review

Spread

Lots of sex, sighs, and vacuousness

Margarita Levieva and Ashton Kutcher in “Spread.’’ Margarita Levieva and Ashton Kutcher in “Spread.’’ (Dale Robinette)
By Laura Bennett
Globe Correspondent / August 15, 2009

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“Spread’’ is the salacious tale of philanderer and expert mooch Nikki (Ashton Kutcher), who sloughs off women like a second skin. “I don’t want to be arrogant,’’ Nikki declares in a stony voice-over, “but I’m an incredibly attractive man.’’ And thus begins the pageant of energetic nudity - mostly Kutcher’s - and elaborately choreographed sex scenes that form the spine of “Spread.’’ It’s a flimsy saga that loses its luster as soon as Nikki’s bad-boy antics melt away.

The land of dreams here is Los Angeles, where the sun always shines and slinky little minxes with low standards and high sex drives abound. Decked out in rolled-up jeans and rakish suspenders, Nikki ambles through the bedrooms of moneyed older women (namely Anne Heche) on a tide of breezy ennui. He lazes around in sculptured pools while his voice-over dispenses nuggets of sage advice like “Never show you’re impressed; it lowers your market value.’’

Then, of course, he meets his match, the frosty Heather (Margarita Levieva). Love swiftly intervenes to knock the playboy to his knees.

The first half of the movie coasts on the perverse thrill of Kutcher’s toxic charm. But in the mad scramble to tie up loose ends and humanize the fulsome scoundrel, whatever magnetism the film has quickly fades. Kutcher is most palatable as the villain, smooth and cool and irresistibly in control. But as pining lover, he becomes sulky and dull. Anemic barbs like “I don’t find you remotely interesting’’ and “I think you’re vacuous’’ send him hurtling into self-awareness. During a pivotal moment of revelation, Nikki reprimands a greasy guy harassing a dancer in a strip club. “She’s a human!’’ he declares.

Seeing Nikki get scourged by the same forces that he once inflicted is just not as interesting as watching him inflict them. Heche is a standout, deftly evincing worldly aplomb and bottled desperation as Nikki’s jilted cougar. But in the end, a pat resolution and glib insights make the film feel as petty and plastic as LA’s reputation.

SPREAD Directed by: David Mackenzie

Written by: Jason Dean Hall

Starring: Ashton Kutcher, Anne Heche, Margarita Levieva

At: Harvard Square and suburbs

Running time: 91 minutes

Rated: R (nudity and graphic sex)

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