Movie Review By Casey McCabe
There's a long history of films with one word titles. Films like "Intolerance" and "Suspicion" basically laid down the gauntlet with their singular appellations. More recently there was the film "Happiness," which enjoyed showing us lives filled with everything but.
Now comes Gregg Araki with his film "Splendor." I do not know if the title was chosen to be definitive, evocative or ironic. I suspect it was chosen to be intentionally vague. After 93 minutes, "Splendor" remains a film desperately searching for an adjective.
Araki has mined twentysomething angst before in the independent films "The Doom Generation" and "Nowhere." This time he wants to play it for laughs. I think. "Splendor" is the story of a young LA woman named Veronica, played by Kathleen Robertson, who is in love with not one but TWO handsome young dudes, played by Johnathon Schaech and Matt Keeslar. But guess what? After some initial resistance, the threesome manages to make the unconventional relationship work. That the film continuously relies on Veronica's voiceovers and on-camera confessionals to remind us how crazy, daring and postmodern the relationship is, only reminds us that the payoff for this fairly ancient plot device better be good.
It isn't. About two-thirds the way through "Splendor," the film decides it can't survive on its turgid quirkiness and opts to become a vintage screwball comedy. Veronica's two lovers; one a punk rocker, the other a writer, are struggling artists. Which translates here into immature, insecure, lovable losers. So when Veronica finds out she is pregnant by one of them, she turns to a third man, a young Hollywood producer, who is doting, financially responsible, terrifically patient and terribly mature. His name is Ernest, and in case you don't get that joke, the only thing you need to know is that life with Ernest will be safe and boring. Logically, Veronica agrees to marry him at midnight on New Year's Eve.
And before you can say "The Graduate" the two lovable losers show up at the exact last second, banging at the window, demanding the ceremony be stopped. But please don't use "The Graduate" in the same sentence as "Splendor." This is remedial storytelling.
Robertson, best known as Clare on the TV show "Beverly Hills 90210" does have an appealing chemistry with the camera. Keeslar, who has had better films in "The Last Days of Disco" and "Waiting For Guffman" gives it his best, except for a couple of the least convincing crying scenes ever captured on film. Schaech, whose chiseled good looks ensure a continued Hollywood career, is simply awful throughout the entire movie.
I do not know where the "Splendor" lies in this film, but it is not In The Grass nor in the story, nor in the execution. I do understand why they chose not to call it "Flounder." It doesn't always pay to be descriptive.
© 1999 - Casey McCabe - Air Date: 9/22/99
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