| art & architecture | books & cds | dance
| destinations | film | opera | television | theater | archives
In Gregg Araki's new romantic comedy, Splendor,
Kathleen Robertson stars as Veronica, a girl from the suburbs looking to make it big in
L.A. At a Halloween party one night, she meets both sensitive writer Abel (Johnathon
Schaech) and musclehead drummer Zed (Matt Keeslar). Veronica hits it off with both of them
separately, and then - once they find out about each other - together. The ensuing
three-way relationship is fraught with no shortage of predictable comic perils, included
unwanted pregnancy and the dreaded left-up toilet seat. To Araki's credit, he seems at
least partially aware that his movie plays like an extended pilot for an updated FOX
version of Three's Company. Indeed, this material, while not exactly
groundbreaking, might well have made for a promising first feature. But this isn't Araki's
first. It's his seventh.
interest in maturing as a filmmaker, Araki may actually be regressing. His two most recent
Doom Generation and Nowhere,
were both scattered, incoherent and amateurish, but at least they were sort of edgy. If
nothing else, they managed to dazzle the senses with candy-colored lighting schemes,
expressionistic set designs and up-to-the-minute techno beats. These elements are
also present in Splendor, but here they are subservient to a relentlessly shallow
and one-dimensional storyline.
the proceedings, stitching barely developed scenes together with first person addresses to
the camera. The movie skips impatiently from Veronica's first dates with Abel and Zed to
the two boys moving their stuff into her apartment, leaving little opportunity for
characterization. Abel wears glasses, Zed wears tank tops, and that's about as deep
as it goes. Araki shows much more interest in his trendy locales and Lucky Charms color
scheme than in crafting believable human beings.
When the unwanted
pregnancy strikes, Veronica is forced to re-evaluate her lifestyle. She takes up with the
director of a TV movie in which she has landed a supporting role. His name is Ernest,
which also proves an apt shorthand description of his character. He's rich and caring and
too good to be true, and of course, he asks Veronica to marry him. Will Veronica turn her
back on her goofy twosome and settle down with Mr. Right? Are you kidding?
Splendor is a
painless enough experience, and it's too good-natured to really get worked up over. The
most surprising thing about it, given Araki's envelope-pushing reputation, is the movie's
tame depiction of the three-way relationship. Maybe the writer-director thinks he's being
subversive by cloaking this unorthodox romance in wacky sitcom conventions. It's easier to
believe, however, that this is a naked bid for mainstream acceptance. If that's the case,
Araki has reason to be proud. He's made a movie as lightweight and vacuous as any
pre-packaged Hollywood product.
- Scott Von Doviak