Two Girls and a Guy

You’ll wish you got porn instead

Main Cast: Robert Downey, Jr., Heather Graham, Natasha Gregson Wagner

Director: James Toback

Oh, the joy of the clichéd sexual fantasy. You know the scenario. Two beautiful women, one man who has been, er, intimate, with both of them, together in an apartment, just the three of them – for hours. Anything could happen, right? Toss in a pizza delivery guy and a voluptuous next door neighbor and you’ve got yourself……..PORN! Well, not really, but the name of the film and the trio of characters could certainly lean in that direction. It’s rather too bad that they don’t, because I do believe that porn would have been more entertaining than the actual incarnation of Two Girls and a Guy. Even if you took out the pizza delivery guy.

Two Girls and a Guy purports to be about what happens when one man is confronted directly (and in a prolonged fashion) by the two women he’s dating. Of course he didn’t tell either one that he was dating both, thus the confrontation. Blake (Robert Downey, Jr.) is a wanna-be actor, singer, all-around performer with charisma and personality to burn. He’s been out of town and his girlfriend decides to surprise him by being on his doorstep when he returns. Unfortunately for him, so does his other girlfriend. Carla (Heather Graham) stands quietly waiting while Lou (Natasha Gregson Wagner) gets into a verbal spat with a street hustler and then launches into a one-sided, breakneck paced conversation with Carla about her wonderful boyfriend. It doesn’t take long for Carla to see the light. The women, rather than battling each other, form an unspoken determination to take their hurt out on he who inflicted it in the first place. They wait and confront Blake.

At first, we do get an interesting, sometimes funny, sometimes dramatic, sometimes heartfelt confrontation between the two women and their feckless man. Blake back-peddles while Carla circles him, advances and strikes (not literally) and Lou takes a more direct route in questioning his feelings for her. The three do an interesting, fast paced little dance of betrayal that, while not exactly resounding with the ring of truth, does keep us on edge wondering how this situation could possibly resolve. After those first few scenes of the three together, however, the film begins to fall apart. What at first is a confrontation and a demand for truth becomes a game of “who will he choose, or will he choose both”, which unfortunately remains entirely without suspense (and rather revolting – why would either of them want him?) since his choice is apparent within the first twenty minutes of the film. In fact, his choice is so easy to spot, all previous claims that he revered the women equally – using the same phrases, doing the same things, acting the same way – begin to feel very inconsistent with the Blake we’re seeing. He does not love them equally, so the confrontation and truth seeking begins to fade into a drama about the man and his demons.

The problem with this story development is that neither the confrontation nor the demons is satisfying. Each is given only half a movie and as a result feels unfinished and weak. The confrontation just fizzles out and the demons never get a chance to properly kick in. There is a point during the film where the script (James Toback) has a chance to make it. A scene with the three characters delving into some personal baggage within the relationship. Blake even asks whether Carla wants him to tell her all the things he finds wrong with her, all the issues he has with her, asks directly if the women really want to know why he was with both of them, what was missing in each that made him choose both. But the question, which is really at the crux of the initial premise, is sidestepped and never answered. This is the point at which the movie chooses to fail. It brings a promise to the table with the initial set-up and then reneges on the promise in a single fifteen second scene. All is downhill from there until the most unsatisfactory denouement I’ve seen in a long time.

The performances are as spotty as the story. On the one hand, we have the multi-talented Downey, with his flair for comedy and his ability to make you feel sorry for him even when he’s an ass. His Blake is at once a cad, a charmer, a pathetic shell and a con man. He absolutely shines when he’s facing himself and his own weaknesses, one monologue into the mirror especially feeling so real that it really is uncomfortably like watching someone during a moment when they feel they are completely alone – being completely stupid and nonsensical – and honest about themselves, to themselves. His performance early in the film is the main thing that gives it promise. We like this character, and we loathe this character, and we want to know more about this character.

Unfortunately, his two co-stars don’t fare nearly as well. Heather Graham is too somber, too slow and serious. We fail to see any sort of reasonable cause for a connection between Carla and Blake. She has none of Blake’s contagious enthusiasm, although in the situation she’s given, that’s at least partially understandable. The bigger problem is that as the movie progresses, she becomes increasingly unlikable. She is supposed to be one of the women scorned, we should sympathize with her plight, but we don’t. She fails to bring enough emotion to the role to support our continued interest in her happiness.

Natasha Gregson Wagner is even worse. Annoying from the very first scene, the character of Lou is supposed to be the bubbly, energetic, fun-loving woman. She ends up coming across as the babbling, stupid, insipid and ridiculously malleable woman. Wagner’s tendency to run through her lines like a stilted automaton does not help us like this character. If possible, she’s even less likable than Graham’s Carla, if only because she’s so perpetually annoying and immature.

Two Girls and a Guy is basically a mess. The hint of steamy sex inherent in such a title and set-up is not realized – in fact, the single sex scene is awkward and extremely uncomfortable to watch. The plot becomes muddied by an unclear direction and the acting is two thirds miserable. Director/writer Toback claims that he wrote this film for Robert Downey, Jr. following one of the actor’s many escapades into the public limelight (for things far removed from his acting). As a showcase for his considerable talents, I suppose the film sort of works. He’s good. His character maintains some interest throughout most of the film. But it isn’t nearly enough to support the rest of the sloppy film. A mess of a plot, uninspired acting by two of the three principals and an extraordinarily weak climax make this a film unworthy of Downey’s considerable talents.  Next time I rent a film with a suggestive title, I’m checking the credits for “the pizza delivery guy” – better his movie than this loser. 2 stars out of 5.

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