True Colors

With the assistance of a shopworn formula by screenwriter Kevin Wade, director Herbert Ross (THE GOODBYE GIRL, THE TURNING POINT, STEEL MAGNOLIAS) has concocted another crisp, clean and sanitized movie confection. TRUE COLORS is a film that goes down easy but is entirely superficial and terminally innocuous. At the University of Virginia Law School, two...read more

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With the assistance of a shopworn formula by screenwriter Kevin Wade, director Herbert Ross (THE GOODBYE GIRL, THE TURNING POINT, STEEL MAGNOLIAS) has concocted another crisp, clean and sanitized movie confection. TRUE COLORS is a film that goes down easy but is entirely superficial and

terminally innocuous.

At the University of Virginia Law School, two roommates, Peter Burton (John Cusack) and Tim Garrity (James Spader), head in entirely different directions. Tim is concerned about right and wrong and manages to find work in the Connecticut district attorney's office. Peter, on the other hand, wants

to enter politics and the world of dirty deals. Before long, Peter has gotten himself a job in the office of Senator James B. Stiles (Richard Widmark). Manipulative and ambitious, Peter romances Senator Stiles's daughter, Diana (Imogen Stubbs), formerly Tim's girlfriend. Determined to run for a

congressional seat himself, he manages to marry Diana, engage sleazy businessman John Palmeri (Mandy Patinkin) to assist him in financing his campaign, blackmail Stiles to support him, and set up Tim in an undercover investigation that will benefit Palmeri.

When Tim discovers he's been duped, he goes undercover in Peter's congressional campaign to expose Peter and his connections with Palmeri. When Peter wins the election, Tim hides undercover video cameras in his friend's room. Then, when Peter informs Tim about kickbacks and other illegal

activities involving himself and Palmeri, Tim reveals that Peter has been videotaped and the two of them fight it out in the room. During a rousing acceptance speech, Peter admits to his dirty doings, saying to the crowd, "I did what any one of you would have done." Nonetheless, Peter is promptly

arrested and denied his congressional seat. Later, he meets Tim at his home and tells him that he is going back to law school.

This hackneyed "there-but-for-the-grace-of-God" tale of two friends who find themselves traveling different paths in life has been done to death so many times that, by the 1930s, it was already a formula quickie--witness any number of James Cagney vehicles for Warner Bros. But the use of cliched

plot formulas has never been anything out of the ordinary for Herbert Ross, e.g. FOOTLOOSE. In the case of FOOTLOOSE, at least, Ross was able to jazz up the cliches with snappy MTV-style editing and a high-voltage approach. In the case of TRUE COLORS, the style is nonexistent. Despite screenwriter

Kevin Wade's attempts to hip things up with yuppie angst and clawing-his-way-to-the-top brashness a la HOW TO SUCCEED IN BUSINESS WITHOUT REALLY TRYING and WALL STREET, he still manages to convert the story into pablum. In fact, Ross and Wade are the perfect team--a dull director and an insipid

writer.

What the film succeeds at being is a star turn for John Cusack. Still humming from his recent breakthrough performance in THE GRIFTERS, Cusack brings a desperately endearing villainy to his role. James Spader, a commanding screen presence himself, extracts what he can from a role that is,

essentially, a reactor and an audience hook to the story. They have able support from Richard Widmark and Mandy Patinkin and disabled support from Imogen Stubbs, whose upper-class accent would best be appreciated on the old "Dobie Gillis" sitcom.

As with many Hollywood films before it, TRUE COLORS is a film with no discernable reason for existence, apart from the sheer joy of the filmmaking process itself. Far from being its own reward, however, the film is a dull, unreasonable cypher. (Profanity, adult situations.)