Two Girls And A Guy, the first fictional feature by director James Toback for a decade, sounds off-puttingly theatrical on paper. There are just three actors and one set (albeit a remarkable roomy loft conversion), yet the spatial and temporal restrictions allow the film-maker to concentrate on the internal dramas experienced by the characters.
Indeed, this frank examination of sexual duplicity and the difficulties of monogamy comes as a welcome antidote to Hollywood's santised depictions of romantic entanglements. While watching the accusations and denials, apologies and self-justifications, revelations and recriminations, you become aware that here is a piece of entertainment which grapples with the complexities of modern relationships. Incidentally, the film's raunchy, three-way sex was trimmed on the advice of the US authorities who thought it "unprecedented in the history of movies".
The part of Blake, a habitual liar, was written by Toback specifically with Downey Jr in mind, and he proves to be the perfect choice: charming, entertaining and quick-witted. His character is mired in self-delusion and trapped by the need to `perform'. Graham and Wagner are also highly impressive, conveying a range of emotions, often without recourse to dialogue. The number of close-ups Toback uses on their faces means that any limitations in their acting would be cruelly exposed. Thankfully they're not.
Skilfully shot by Barry Markowitz, and featuring a great, genuinely eclectic soundtrack (from techno to Brahms to Jackie Wilson to a bit of crooning from Downey Jr himself), Two Girls And A Guy builds to an unexpectedly moving conclusion. It's heartening to see that it's still possible for such a grown-up movie to emerge from Hollywood.
A theatrical three-hander from maverick director Toback that compels because of its outstanding performances, engrossing dialogue and candid observations about modern sexual entwinings. It demands concentration, but respects intelligence.