Two Girls and a Guy (1997)

Two Girls and a Guy (1997)
  • Time: 84 min
  • Genre: Comedy | Drama
  • Director: James Toback
  • Cast: Robert Downey Jr., Heather Graham, Natasha Gregson Wagner


Two girls, Carla and Lou meet on the street outside a loft waiting for their boyfriends. In a short time, they find out that they’re waiting for the same guy – young actor Blake, who said that he loves only her to both of them but was actually leading double life for a few months already. Angry, they break into his loft and when he returns, a round of accusations and explanations begins.

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  • He’s a scoundrel, he’s a cad. But he’s so good at being bad that two girls will gladly be had. So goes the premise of writer-director James Toback’s tantalizing talkfest, Two Girls and a Guy.

    New York. A doorstep. Two girls. Carla (Heather Graham) and Lou (Natasha Gregson Wagner). Both waiting for their boyfriends to return. They soon discover that their boyfriends are one and the same: Blake Allen (Robert Downey, Jr.). Lou breaks into his loft, buzzes Carla in and the two decide to confront their rascally beau. A tangled web of sex, lies, secrets, and truths follows.

    The film grapples with themes that couch any relationship: the (im)possibility of fidelity, truths that hurt vs. lies which comfort, the essential natures of men and women. This philosophical chamber piece — it unfolds almost entirely in real time and takes place in the loft for nearly the whole length of the film — avoids being claustrophobic due to Toback’s trippy and provocative screenplay and especially to Barry Markowitz’s skillful camerawork.

    Gregson Wagner, daughter of the late Natalie Wood and last seen in David Lynch’s Lost Highway, still needs some polish. Her character, the streetsmart tough cookie, is the less interesting of the two girls and therefore the most problematic: why would Blake want to be with her when he already has Carla? Why, indeed? It’s the unanswerable question of any relationship rocked by an infidelity.

    Gregson Wagner doesn’t help answer the question. She’s pretty, pixieish and at times charmingly scatterbrained, but she’s a featherweight. The lines are woodenly delivered; she doesn’t feel the words. However, she does come through in one scene that has her spewing forth on Blake: “Fuck you. Up and down, in and out, front and rear…[you are] a lying, mugging, misogynistic, unemployable, short, loft-inheriting, piece-of-shit fraud.”

    Graham, an actress who was on the fringes of stardom before breaking through with Boogie Nights, has finally come into her own. She’s eerily beautiful — a broken baby doll face framed by a halo of long, blond hair — but with deep wells of melancholy. Her palpable rapport with Downey, Jr. results in an ever-shifting pas de deux that has her simultaneously outraged, repulsed, bemused, and intrigued by his words and actions.

    Downey, Jr. burns with a lovely light. Whether bellowing operatically, tinkling the ivories, softshoeing around Lou and Carla (“I had a point to make. I had a valid point,” he protests after pretending to have shot himself), or waxing philosophical (“Words are not serving me at all. Language is lies.”), Downey, Jr. is tragic, frightening, and utterly electrifying. Blake Allen is not just an actor by profession, he is also an actor at heart. Life is a stage and he is the ringmaster of his cabaret.

    At one point, Blake validates his actions by proclaiming, “I’m an actor. Actors lie.” Actors lie to tell the truth and watching the scene where Blake confronts himself in the mirror — launching into a grotesque rendition of “You Don’t Know Me” before engaging in a conversation with himself — you wonder who you’re watching up on the screen. Is it Downey, Jr. acting out Blake Allen? Or Downey, Jr. being Downey, Jr. through the guise of Blake Allen?

    “Is this how you want to live the rest of your life?” he asks himself. “Damaging people around you? Damaging yourself? Got to get it together.”

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