True Colors

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.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for almost 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

READ MORE
More True Colors
True Colors Last Week at the Woodlands
True Colors Last Week at the Woodlands
The Gay Place gave away a trip to Houston to True Colors and we have proof.

Kate X Messer, June 30, 2007

More Herbert Ross Films
Footloose
...

Marjorie Baumgarten, Aug. 9, 2001

The Owl and the Pussycat
A sensible double bill with Born Yesterday, the story is about a streetwise prostitute and a sheltered intellectual. Streisand is very funny in this reworking ...

Marjorie Baumgarten, May 11, 2000

More by Steve Davis
Sicilia!
Restored Italian experiment is more form than substance

Sept. 11, 2020

House of Cardin
Biodoc of the fashion innovator is only sew-sew

Aug. 28, 2020

KEYWORDS FOR THIS FILM

True Colors, Herbert Ross, John Cusack, James Spader, Imogen Stubbs, Richard Widmark, Mandy Patinkin

MORE IN THE ARCHIVES
NEWSLETTERS
One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

New recipes and food news delivered Mondays

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle