This file was generated 2002-06-11 00:22 GMT. This movie's information hasn't changed since 2001-09-04.

Scott Ventura >> Movie Commentary >> September 2001 >> Splendor


Movie Commentary by Scott Ventura


Scott's Rating:
1 / 5
Times Seen:
Viewing Date:
September 2001
IMDB Name:
Splendor (1999)
Gregg Araki
MPAA Rating:
R for sexual material, language and some drug use.

Truth in Criticism

I liked exactly two things about Splendor: Adam Carolla has a cameo, and Kathleen Robertson is a babe. That's it. I hated everything else. Actually, Carolla's cameo isn't even a good cameo! Interesting trivia note: Carolla, co-host of Loveline, often jokes about guys who work around metal. Here, he plays one.


Writer/director Gregg Araki is a poor man's Peter Greenaway. Both roll around in symbolism, chuckling at their cleverness, neglecting to provide anything resembling entertainment. I always suspect that there are a handful of erudite snobs that can really extract the humor from Greenaway, even if I'm bored to tears myself. As for Araki, he pitches things to my level, but they're not interesting or humorous. As an example, he names the men Abel, Zed, and Ernest. Abel and Zed are at opposite ends of the alphabet. Ho, ho. Ernest is a homophone of "earnest", an apt description of the character. Ha, ha. I can barely contain myself. I'm sure I could come up with something about Veronica if I worked at it long enough, but Splendor is hardly worth the effort.

As if the symbolism wasn't bad enough, the characters and characterizations are worse. All of the characters are idiots, and movie idiots at that. I can believe that a real-life idiot would try to date two violently jealous men at the same time. Only a movie idiot would think getting them drunk and naked would solve everything, and only two other movie idiots would fall for it. Only movie idiots pull piles of junk out of their pockets in the checkout line to demonstrate pennilessness. The slapstick at the end was awful, revealing another layer of Araki's contempt for believability as he applies physical humor incompetently and inappropriately at the same time. By that point, the male portion of the central threesome had been reduced to a single, two-headed character. I can take this two ways. Either Araki is adhering strictly to romantic formula in a film that ought to be anything but, or he was too lazy to write both characters, and just divided the lines between them.

Araki's visual touch does nothing to help the film. When Veronica is narrating the story, she's bathed in white light, including the reflections of the studio lights in her eyes. I've only ever seen this kind of lighting in cosmetics commercials, and it's similarly flattering on Robertson, but what's Araki's reasoning? Is she an angel at this point? In a more irritating scene, Araki places large video projection screens of the characters, shot from another angle, behind the characters. I couldn't decide if it was just a funky club meant to drive people insane with self- consciousness, or just Araki being annoying. The answer, I fear, is both.

If I'd been onscreen in this mess, I'd start reevaluating the qualifications of my agent. Matt Keeslar demonstrates the ability to take his shirt off and stare blankly, sometimes simultaneously. This is the kind of character who could be brought to life by a ripped Brendan Fraser, but that would be too pleasant for this film. Kelly Macdonald plays the most annoying film persona in memory. Her screechy tone, absurd costuming, and awful lines (not her fault, of course) conspired to make me wish she'd go away every time she appeared. Johnathon Schaech emerges relatively unscathed because his character was allowed one shred of intelligence.


Copyright 2001 by Scott Ventura. All rights reserved.