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20th Century Fox presents
"You're just lucky you don't have a kitchen knife sticking through your Adam's apple right now!"
DVD ReviewHow well do we really know the intimate people in our lives? Can we ever discover what truly exists within the minds of our friends, relatives, dates, or even our own spouses? Blake Allen (Robert Downey Jr.) works as an actor/entertainer and spends nearly all of his waking hours in a state of constant deception. Although his personality is charming, he allows no one behind the curtain to discover his true thoughts. This form of hiding is not uncommon, but Blake¹s falseness runs much deeper than the usual archetype.
Two Girls and a Guy takes a fairly simple premise and creates an intriguing character study through biting dialogue and a risky lead performance by Robert Downey Jr. The story begins outside of Blake¹s gaudy loft apartment, where Carla and Lou (Heather Graham and Natasha Gregson Wagner) expectantly await the arrival of their boyfriend. Unfortunately, they¹re dating the same supposedly wonderful guy‹Blake Allen‹and this scheme has been going on for 10 months. When they reach this realization, both characters are obviously angry, but they react extremely differently to this surprise. Lou immediately wishes serious bodily harm and is ready to give him a brutal tongue-lashing, while Carla thrusts her thoughts inward and tries to understand why he would arrange such an elaborate and deceitful plan.
On the surface, this story functions similar to a one-set play, with nearly all the events occurring during a continuous and brief period of time. Director/writer James Toback composes it almost entirely of heated discussions between the three characters about relationships and the ultimate nature of truth. The two understandably angry women fire verbal bullets at Blake and attack every element of his being, but he holds his own and never breaks down. Although being caught initially shocks him, Blake quickly recovers and tries to teach Carla and Lou a few things about his motivations. What makes this film interesting is the fact that nothing is simple or easily explained. Blake has deliberately deceived both of his girlfriends, but he possesses attributes that keep him from becoming a one-note jerk. Within the chaos at his apartment, he spends frustrating interludes on the phone with his sick mother (who never appears on screen), and this reveals a saddening emotional side to his character. Also, Carla and Lou aren't nearly as blind and trusting as we originally expect. They also possess their own secrets that bring them a little closer to Blake's level of lies and false ideals.
In dealing with Robert Downey Jr.'s well-known personal problems, this film contains a definite connection between fiction and reality. Toback worked with Downey on 1987's The Pick-up Artist, and he decided to write this screenplay after viewing his drug troubles on television. Within a week, the screenplay was written, and this spontaneity permeates the tone of the story. The actors improvised several scenes, including some of the more heated moments. During a pivotal sequence, the two women corner Blake in a bathroom and attack him fiercely with a barrage of verbal assaults. Tumultuous arguments often feel silly and forced in films, but their exchange remains pertinent and is almost painful in its harsh realism.
While Blake Allen varies considerably from Downey, he does present the perfect match for his persona and considerable talents. As he studies himself in the mirror and tries to bring himself together, its impossible not to picture Downey having a similar moment in real life. It's impressive to see the actor taking a chance with this role that mirrors the uneven nature of his actual reality. The result is an intriguing performance that carries the story into another echelon. Although Graham and Wagner do a decent job, this is Robert Downey Jr.'s film, and he provides a riveting presence throughout the film.
Rating for Style: B
Rating for Substance: B+
Image Transfer Review: Due to the limitations of the setting, it's more difficult to discern the quality level of this 1.85:1 widescreen anamorphic transfer. It does feature virtually zero defects on the print and provides no hindrance to the viewing process. The picture remains in focus, and the black levels are solid throughout the film. Even removing discussion about the indoor sets, there's just nothing exceptional about this transfer. The colors look fine, but they just aren't exceptionally bright or detailed. Overall, the visuals are well done and easily watchable, but nothing jumps out as being overly impressive.
Image Transfer Grade: B
Audio Transfer Review: Two Girls and a Guy features an easily understandable 2.0-channel Dolby Surround transfer that lacks any punch. I had to turn up the volume to a surprisingly high level to reach my usual sound level for viewing a disc. This lesser force may stem from the predominance of dialogue over sound effects in the film. Unfortunately, a more powerful 5.1-channel transfer would have enhanced the musical scenes and raised them to another level. The heated discussions by the main characters sound fine, but they must exist within the limitations of the audio track.
Audio Transfer Grade: B-
Disc ExtrasStatic menu
Scene Access with 20 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, Spanish with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
6 Other Trailer(s) featuring The Beach, The Ice Storm, Quills, Ravenous, Titus, and Me, Myself, and Irene
1 Feature/Episode commentary by Director James Toback, Robert Downey Jr., and Natasha Gregson Wagner
Extras Review: Two Girls and a Guy features an entertaining commentary from James Toback, Robert Downey Jr., and Natasha Gregson Wagner that covers numerous elements of the short production. Filming took place for only 11 days with a limited amount of preparation time. Toback does a majority of the talking, and he appears a little too excited about this film. His words include silly statements like calling Downey's entrance the "best in the history of movies." Wagner and Toback have plenty of good dialogue about her role and several moments where she drew the line with her character. Downey says little early on except for a few laughs and grunts, but he begins to open up and provides some nice insights. One of the most intriguing aspects is Toback's incessant denial of reviewers (including myself) who compared the film to a play. He feels that the close-up expressions of the actors would be lost without the camera, and he does have a legitimate point.
The remaining supplements consist of trailers for this film and numerous other Fox productions. The disc includes widescreen trailers for The Beach , The Ice Storm , Titus , and Ravenous. Also, it contains full-frame trailers for Quills and Me, Myself & Irene.
Extras Grade: B
Final CommentsRobert Downey Jr. is a talented actor who has proven himself in films as varied as Chaplin and Natural Born Killers. But if his personal problems continue to persist in the future, film audiences may not see much more of him. Two Girls and a Guy stands as one of his most personal performances in a very challenging role. Along with Heather Graham and Natasha Gregson Wagner, they utilize the limitations of the story's setting and create an impressive study of human nature.
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