1991 Directed by Herbert Ross. Starring John Cusack, James Spader, Imogen Stubbs, Richard Widmark, Mandy Patinkin.
REVIEWED By Steve Davis, Fri., June 21, 1991
The don't-get-caught '80s and holier-than-thou '90s do battle in True Colors, a political drama of all-too familiar dimensions. The painstakingly obvious screenplay by Kevin Wade (Working Girl) plays like an eighth-grade civics primer: ethics and morality are good, greed and corruption are bad. As the modern-day Damon and Pythian whose friendship is destroyed by political ambition, Cusack and Spader founder in trying to create three-dimensional characterizations out of stick figures. Spader is somewhat credible as the righteous young turk who believes that no man -- not even his best friend -- is above the law, but his Ivy League smugness, which we've seen time and time again, has worn thin. On the other hand, Cusack has none of the cunning that supposedly propels his character to the top; he's more believable as a candidate running for class president than the House of Representatives. Director Ross, whose forte is mediocrity, caters to the script's didactic posturing rather than explore the dynamics of a friendship between polar opposites. (Of course, there's the obligatory woman-in-the-middle to round out the two men's relationship, but you knew that already.) The crucial scene in which Cusack decides to betray Spader -- the narrative's turning point -- is so badly executed that its import is lost in the midst of all the jabbering about logrolling, situational ethics, and the political system in general. In forsaking the human in favor of the homily, True Colors can be nothing but black and white.