The Films of David Mackenzie
The Last Great Wilderness
Spread (November 18/09)
Featuring one of Ashton Kutcher's most impressive performances to date, Spread casts the actor as Nikki - a charismatic boy-toy who proudly jumps from one bed to the next with such frequency that he doesn't even have a home of his own. Though he's got a good thing going with his latest conquest (Anne Heche's Samantha), Nikki begins to question his shallow existence after meeting (and falling for) a similarly less-than-ethical twentysomething named Heather (Margarita Levieva). It's an intriguing premise that's initially employed to above-average effect by director David Mackenzie, as the filmmaker does a superb job of imbuing Jason Hall's low-key screenplay with impressive bursts of style (ie an unbroken take that winds its way through a hopping Hollywood party). The inherently fascinating nature of the central character's hedonistic lifestyle certainly plays an instrumental role in capturing (and sustaining) the viewer's interest, with Kutcher's note-perfect work ensuring that Nikki consistently comes off as a compelling, thoroughly believable figure (and it's also worth noting that the actor doesn't shy away from sporadically infusing Nikki with far-from-likeable attributes). There's consequently little doubt that the unapologetically aimless atmosphere never quite becomes as problematic as one might've anticipated, although it's hard to deny that the movie does start to run out of steam as it progresses into its increasingly conventional third act. The inclusion of an unexpectedly poignant finale ensures that Spread concludes on a high note, however, and it ultimately goes without saying that the film remains worth a look primarily for Kutcher's magnetic central performance and Mackenzie's striking visual sensibilities.
A seriously bleak little movie, Perfect Sense details the chaos that ensues as individuals all over the world begin losing the use of their five senses (starting with smell) - with the narrative zeroing in on the impact this calamitous event has on an easygoing chef (Ewan McGregor's Michael) and an ambitious scientist (Eva Green's Susan). Filmmaker David Mackenzie has infused Perfect Sense with a subdued, deliberately-paced feel that proves an effective complement to Kim Fupz Aakeson's low-key screenplay, as the emphasis is, for the most part, placed on the ongoing exploits of McGregor and Green's respective characters (and it's worth noting that the director offers up a fantastic meet-cute for the pair). And although Mackenzie has peppered the narrative with a number of startlingly cinematic interludes (eg a montage of the virus first taking effect), Perfect Sense suffers from an often unreasonably sluggish midsection that does, on more than one occasion, test the viewer's patience. (It's difficult, however, to discount the effectiveness of several key stand-alone sequences, with the film's highlight an captivating scene in which Michael and Susan reveal their deepest, darkest secrets to one another.) The end result is an impressively downbeat and depressing drama that does, admittedly, pack a palpably (and unexpectedly) emotional punch in its final minutes, yet it's difficult not to wish that the remainder of the proceedings had been as wrenching and engrossing.