Sometimes a movie is all about the setup, while for others, it's all about the execution. James Toback's 'Two Girls and a Guy' falls into the latter category.
The set-up is this: two girls (Heather Graham and Natasha Gregson Wagner) are waiting outside a loft apartment in downtown New York City. They chat and it is revealed that they're both waiting for their boyfriend, an aspiring actor/singer, to get back from a business trip in California. Slowly they begin to realize that they're talking about the same person - that both women are waiting for the same man, who has been playing them both. He really must be 'Iron Man!'
So, they hatch a plan: they'll break into his apartment and wait for him to get back. When he does get back, they'll ambush him, making him squirm like the cad that he is. They'll ask him why he's been lying, how he could do that to them etc. And revenge will be oh-so-sweet.
The boyfriend (played by Robert Downey Jr.) does get home, and they do confront him and that's pretty much the entire movie. It all plays in the dialogue - accusatory, revealing, sexy, and rest of the "plot" is how those three characters spend the rest of the day interacting. That's it.
And yet from such a threadbare story, an absolutely engrossing film unfolds. Writer-director James Toback, who saw success earlier this year with his triumphant 'Tyson' documentary, writes these characters incredibly well. Each one has their own unique voice and point of view, and when they clash (and they do clash, violently, spectacularly, seductively) it all comes pouring out. The movie is at times heart wrenching, hilarious, and almost always uncomfortable, but the excellence of the writing, filmmaking, and performances, keeps you riveted. It's like a car crash - horrible, yet you cannot look away.
Downey was cast in the film at the low point of his personal and professional life. And while there are a couple of false notes (there's a sequence where he fakes his own suicide which is too elaborate and grim), his performance is absolutely flawless. As a man caught between two women (three, if you include his ailing mother, who he talks to on the phone), he scrambles hilariously but he's not some boob. While his psychology is hardly examined, you can understand what a deep and conflicted character he is thanks to the actor's layered performance.
His costars are just as wonderful. Both Heather Graham (back when she could act/was in interesting things) and Natasha Gregson Wagner hold up well next to Downey's powerhouse performance. Wagner in particular, who seems to be more overlooked because she's the meeker character and doesn't get to participate in the NC-17-generating sex scene, is absolutely dynamite. While she sometimes borders on annoying, she always feels real, just as real as Graham's more assured character.
And while this might seem like more of a stage play than a movie, that's selling the film short. It's also selling the apartment where they shot the movie short, as it's one of the most stunning pieces of New York City architecture you're likely to see. Toback plays with the characters, and the audiences beautifully, and what you're left with is a talky film that's also deeply affecting, in a pure way that you almost never see these days.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
'Two Girls and a Guy' comes to us from Fox Home Video on a 25GB disc. It does play automatically and, after the red Fox attention screen, goes into a Blu-ray advert, which features an inordinate amount of scenes from that terrible 'Day the Earth Stood Still' remake with Keanu Reeves. Then you have a screen which lets you choose which version - the R-rated cut or (for the first time on home video!) the NC-17 version! It is Region "A" locked.
Listen, this 1080p AVC-encoded transfer (in its original 1.85:1 aspect ratio) isn't going to make you stand up and clap. It is, however, quite good.
For a comparison to HOW good it does look, toggle over to the film's theatrical trailer, which is very much not in HD. That trailer is an absolute disgrace - the film looks washed out, grainy, and blurry. This transfer, on the other hand, looks surprisingly sharp and very much in focus.
As you'll learn elsewhere on this disc, the film was shot in 11 days on a budget of a million dollars, and as such, isn't going to be the lushly visualized opus as something with even double that budget. Still, skin tones look good, the outside shots that start the film look amazing, and when the camera zooms around the apartment, it achieves an almost 3-D level of dimensionality.
Similarly, textures and details fare nicely, black levels are deep and there's a fine level of grain which adds to its theatrical authenticity. There are some sequences that look quite soft. Not blurry, mind you, but not razor-sharp, either, with no technical issues to get in the way.
Overall, this is a very nice, very subtle transfer and it's nice to see such a great film look so great.
The disc's DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track is quite nice, but it's almost exclusively a stereo mix, with the dialogue front and center, except for the opening scenes on the streets of New York, when someone puts on some music, or Robert Downey Jr. plays the piano.
That's it. Still, for what it is, it's quite nice. Everyone sounds crisp and clear and while some bits of dialogue were noticeably put in during post-production, it really didn't take away from my enjoyment of the film. It's what they say, after all, and not how they say it.
Is this mix going to rattle your windows with pure, surround sound ferocity? No. Is it perfectly appropriate for the film it accompanies? Absolutely.
Other audio options on the disc are English Dolby Digital 5.1, Spanish Dolby Digital Mono, and French Dolby Digital Mono, with subtitles available in English, Spanish, French, and Chinese.
The biggest extra on this disc is the NC-17 rated cut of the film. This cut is 80 seconds longer than the theatrical one, and it really is baffling as to why it was rated NC-17. There isn't one bit of nudity and no one violently kills anyone else. It's just some exuberant, fully clothed sex that the MPAA apparently couldn’t handle at all. Soft-focus Hollywood sex where people take their clothes off and kiss each other just so is okay, but anything even remotely resembling reality gets an NC-17. Technically, I guess, this is an HD-exclusive. So I'll talk about it again in that section.
Honestly, I can't believe 'Two Girls and a Guy' has made its way to Blu-ray. I also cannot believe that it has aged so well - it's still as sharp and funny and poignant as it was in 1997. And the really, truly hard thing to believe is that the original, NC-17 rated cut, hidden from home video viewers for so long, is on this disc! (And how tame it is!) While the video is solid, the audio does what it's supposed to do, and the extra features are nice, this isn't a film for everyone. Still, it's recommended for everyone, adventurous viewers in particular.