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'Two Girls and a Guy': Triple Fun

By Rita Kempley
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, April 24, 1998

  Movie Critic

Two Girls and a Guy Natasha Wagner (left), Heather Graham and Robert Downey Jr. are "Two Girls and a Guy." (Fox Searchlight)

James Toback
Robert Downey Jr.;
Heather Graham;
Natasha Wagner;
Angel David;
Frederique Van Der Wal
Running Time:
1 hour, 25 minutes
For sex, language and dialogue, and a violent image
"Two Girls and a Guy," an edgy, gabby, salaciously subversive sex farce, breaks out of the box – or in this case, the classic love triangle – to poke about in the messy realities and conflicting needs of '90s relationships.

Cerebral, frenetic and funny, this chamber piece from filmmaker James Toback provides a timely if inconclusive comment on monogamy. For many, that is an uncomfortable state entailing an ongoing, usually futile attempt to reconcile sexual itches with romantic ideals.

Toback, whose sexual peccadilloes have been chronicled in various magazines, certainly has a passion for his subject, which he first visited in one of his more shallow mainstream offerings, "The Pick-Up Artist." This new profanity-riddled affair is more in keeping with the fringe-dwelling filmmaker's confrontational style.

Robert Downey Jr., who played the cheating heartthrob in that 1987 comedy, also portrays a charming roue in this vastly superior tale of infidelity, dishonesty and the fear of commitment. Downey figuratively and literally comes unzipped in this dizzyingly off-the-wall performance.

Shot in real time, the improvisational piece takes place in the pretentiously under-decorated SoHo loft of Blake Allen (Downey), an actor who returns from job-hunting in Los Angeles to find that he has unexpected guests: Carla (Heather Graham) and Lou (Natasha Gregson Wagner), who break into his apartment after discovering that each is supposedly having a monogamous affair with him.

Though caught off-guard, Blake quickly recovers his wits and is soon successfully rationalizing his behavior. Carla, the tall quiet blonde, and Lou, the petite, plucky brunette, rant and rave like fighters at a weigh-in, but they simply can't stay mad at Blake, so disarming is he with his Bambi-eyed, bipolar, self-loathing, vulnerable shtick.

Blake even gets make-up sex in a scene that while highly touted, hardly matches the coarseness of the language – rough enough to scrub the crud off pots. At the same time, Blake's been a bad boy and the girls are entitled to hand him his comeuppance. Even if it is only lip service.

Despite all the jawing, "Two Girls and a Guy" doesn't have much to say about fidelity, honesty and commitment. It just thinks it does. On the other hand, how many movies bother to think at all?

© Copyright 1998 The Washington Post Company

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