True Colors (1991)
“Lies. Deceit. Betrayal. It’s What Friendship Is All About.”
Director: Herbert Ross
Cast: John Cusack, James Spader, Imogen Stubbs
Synopsis: Best friends from law school to election night, their friendship is sorely tested when one learns of another’s betrayal.
Cusack and Spader are law college friends from opposite sides of the tracks: Cusack’s from a working class background he’s desperately striving to both escape and conceal, while Spader’s privileged background has left him largely untouched by the realities of life, leaving him with naive dreams of righting legal injustices. So Cusack becomes a political aide for an ageing Senator (Richard Widmark) and uses any measures necessary to ensure his rise through the ranks, while Spader plumps for a less glamorous but more fulfilling role in the Department of Justice, much to the chagrin of his wealthy girlfriend — who just happens to be the Senator’s daughter (Imogen Stubbs) – who doesn’t want to be a policeman’s wife.
This is really just a political spin on the age old story. Fifty years earlier Cagney and O’Brien had a similar conflict, only then they had a sharper script. Cusack plays the Cagney role here and it’s his hyper performance that drives the film. Without him it would be a watchable but wholly unremarkable potboiler — with him it’s a watchable but wholly unremarkable potboiler with a decent central performance. Spader is a decent enough actor, but if he didn’t keep moving he’d slowly blend into the background, while British actress Imogen Stubbs is entirely miscast as the Senator’s daughter who beds both men — she’s way too nice for the role. Only Richard Widmark — in his final role — possesses enough spark to match Cusack in the scenes they share.
You won’t be bored by it, but despite the story being strictly routine, it could have been so much more had it not been weighed down by a script that is so much weaker than the plot. Pivotal scenes almost sneak by under the radar, and probably the best scenes — a confrontation between Cusack and Widmark and Cusack’s campaign-winning speech — still barely register.
(Reviewed 4th January 2012)