Two Girls and a Guy - rated - HOT! HOT! HOT!

This performance-driven film is almost a throw-back to the 70s. On the surface, it examines the relationships of 2 couples, but the difference is that the two couples consist of only 3 people.

The screenplay was written by director James Toback for his star Robert Downey Jnr. He saw Downey on TV, under arrest, and wrote the piece for him in 4 days. He filmed it in just 11 days, in a short period of hiatus before Downey was back in court and then off to prison. It shows. This film is all of a piece. It may not be polished, smooth, evenly blanaced or overly thoughtful, but it is raw, sincere and immediate. It rings true, even if it is not completely consistent or profound. These three people are interesting and attractive, and they have some cracking dialogue (or is that triologue?).

Toback has worked with Downey before, in The Pick-Up Artist, which I haven't seen. Toback is (or was) a pick-up artist himself. He's clever, and a fluent talker. He's given Downey an absolute gift with this role, which takes advantage of his prodigiopus talents (he mugs, sings, recites from Hamlet, plays opposite himself in a mirror, gets a sizzling sex scene, and composed the end-titles music). Downey is great. That's not surprising. What's surprising is that his two young co-stars match him every step of the way. Heather Graham we've seen before as the roller-skating porn star in Boogie Nights. Natasha Gregson Wagner was fabulous in 1997's First Love, Last Rites (Jesse Peretz) which I saw at the Sydney Film festival, and she also had a small role in the same year in David Lynch'sLost Highway.

There are a few problems with the film - not the least being a cop-out ending - but it is still a fascinating exercise. Toback can make intensely personal films. In Fingers (1978), he looked at the question of a genius (Toback?) wasting his talent. In Two Girls and a Guy, Toback is clearly trying to rationalise a life of womanising. He's making confessions - showing us he understands what it is that he's been doing. But he's also asking us to understand him, and to see that women can aid and abet such behaviour. However uncomfortable that may be, it can be true, and it's an idea which has always fascinated me. I saw this film in the same week as I saw The Dreamlife of Angels (1998, Eric Zonca). In that film, one of the two girls becomes attracted to a sleazy pick-up artist and allows herself to be destroyed by his carelessness. It's an interesting parallel.

But here, the two girls are perfectly capable of looking after themselves, and though all 3 may say they are in love, they aren't. They're just play-acting, and they do a mighty good job of it.