A scene from 'Splendor'
Courtesy Photo
** stars 93 minutes | Rated: R
Opened: Friday, September 24, 1999
Directed by Gregg Araki

Starring Kathleen Robertson, Johnathon Schaech, Matt Keeslar, Kelly Macdonald & Eric Mabius


Background noise rental for spring cleaning day.

   VIDEO RELEASE: 1/2000

Kathleen Robertson:
"Dog Park" (1999)

Johnathon Schaech:
"Welcome to Woop Woop" (1998)
"That Thing You Do!" (1996)

Matt Keeslar:
"The Last Days of Disco" (1998)
"Sour Grapes" (1998)
"Waiting for Guffman" (1997)

Kelly Macdonald:
"Elizabeth" (1998)
"Trainspotting" (1996)

Eric Mabius:
"Cruel Intentions" (1999)
"Minus Man" (1999)
"I Shot Andy Warhol" (1996)
"Welcome to the Dollhouse" (1996)
Self-absorbed, sexpot starlet tries to decide between three loser lovers in Araki's 'Splendor'

By Rob Blackwelder

The heroine of "Splendor," Gregg Araki's new anything goes sex comedy, is irresistibly adorable -- a sexy, spunky, sparkling Generation Y Holly Golightly with bouncy, ringlet hair and a freckled nose.

But aside from inspiring the protective vibe in every guy she meets and lighting a fire in their loins as well, Veronica (Kathleen Robertson) doesn't have much going for her. She's shallow, self-absorbed, irresponsible and so wildly ambivalent that the plot hinges entirely on her inability to decide between three lovers.

Two of them -- struggling writer Abel (Johnathon Schaech) and dim-bulb punk rock drummer Zed (Matt Keeslar) -- are so whipped by Veronica's considerable charms that they agree to share the girl and her bed, and both boys move in, forming an oddly harmonious threesome in the big, funky L.A. flat she can inexplicably afford on her salary as an office temp and aspiring actress.

But after a few weeks of having it made with two men she thinks she loves, along comes Ernest (Eric Mabius), the youthful, rich and adoring director with a serious case of puppy love who casts Veronica in a miniseries and tempts her with the kind of stability and prosperity she'll never find with her Tweedle Dee and Tweelde Dum flat mates.

What's a girl to do?

"Splendor" prides itself on eschewing romantic convention with its happy menage a trois, which is fine in theory. Whatever floats your boat, Veronica. The problem is, aside from being easy on the eyes, none of these characters haven't even a modicum of depth.

Robertson (also in this week's "Dog Park," but best know as Clare on "Beverly Hills, 90210") plays to perfection the kind of girlish sexuality that leaves young men dumbstruck. I admit it, if I met this girl at a party she'd have me wrapped around her finger in about three minutes. But it wouldn't last because Veronica is vacuous. She's 22 years old and she hasn't a clue what she wants from love or life -- and it doesn't look like there's a clue anywhere in her near future, either. She's a disposable girlfriend type and the novelty of her sweet sexuality quickly gets tiresome.

That being the case, it's no surprise that neither Abel nor Zed is much of a prize, either. They're disposable boyfriends. Every average, sexually liberated cutie in the Los Angeles basin beds herself a mock intellectual and an impoverished rock drummer at some point -- albeit not usually at the same time. But most of them move on, and the ditzy chicks that don't certainly aren't worthy of their own movie. (As for Ernest, he's the generic nice guy who probably hears the dreaded phrase "just friends" a lot.)

Writer-director Araki ("Nowhere," "The Doom Generation") spins a good yarn, gets a few light laughs and displays some creative technique, giving the harmless "Splendor" a congenial surface. But surface is all it offers and the movie has absolutely no anchor in anything resembling the real life.

If only we could all live in a world without consequences, where our biggest worry was juggling lovers who don't mind sharing. Then we could all be as superficial as Araki's ditzy, babydoll Veronica.


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