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[whitespace] Two Girls & a Guy Three's a Crowd: Natasha Wagner (left) and Heather Graham fall for Robert Downey Jr.

'Two Girls & a Guy' doesn't add up

By Richard von Busack

DIRECTOR JAMES TOBACK'S doppelgänger, Robert Downey Jr., plays Blake Allen, musician, actor and two-timing weasel in Two Girls and a Guy. The film is a modern answer to Toback's The Pick-Up Artist set in the more sexually restricted present. Allen's simultaneous courtship of two women who know nothing about each other, complete with promises of love to both, is exposed when the two turn up at the same time to confront him. Heather Graham and Natasha Gregson Wagner (the daughter of Natalie Wood) play Carla and Lou, the two hurt women. The tantalizing possibility hinted at in the title is a bait-and-switch tactic; once the sexual tension evaporates, so does the film.

Shot in real time, in the confines of a Manhattan loft, Two Girls and a Guy consists mostly of talk. Downey, as loaded up with demons as the Gadarene swine of the New Testament, is stubbled, bleary, oily--hardly the coy young charmer he was in 1987. He's given a Freudian explanation for his cruelty: his mom is dying, that's why he swore love to both women. If only there were something unique about either of the girls to explain why only both together could fulfill him, but the principal difference between them is that one is blonde and the other isn't.

It's a repellent picture that may get a reputation as a cult film. (Whatever his love life may be like, Toback is a great seducer of film critics.) Even if you've behaved as badly as Downey's Allen has here, Two Girls and a Guy doesn't hand you a mirror; it takes his weaselly excuses at face value. Incidentally, the ad tag about "a new sexual position: honesty" is borrowed from the campaign for David Burton Morris' 1988 indie film Patti Rocks, a much more realistic view of the excuses and delusions of the male cheater. So much for honesty.

Two Girls and a Guy (NC-17; 84 min.), directed and written by James Toback, photographed by Barry Markowitz and starring Robert Downey Jr., Heather Graham and Natasha Wagner, opens Friday at the Los Gatos Cinema.

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From the April 23-29, 1998 issue of Metro.

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