Owen Gleiberman
March 29, 1991 AT 05:00 AM EST

True Colors

type
Movie
Current Status
In Season
mpaa
R
performer
John Cusack, James Spader, Dina Merrill, Mandy Patinkin, Philip Bosco, Richard Widmark
director
Herbert Ross
distributor
Paramount Home Video
author
Kevin Wade
genre
Drama

We gave it a D+

James Spader launched his career playing slimedogs and then turned to portraying earnest nice guys. John Cusack appears to be going in the opposite direction. In True Colors, the two are law students who bond at the University of Virginia and carry their friendship on to Washington, D.C., where they take radically different moral paths. Tim (Spader), who’s as honorable as a Boy Scout, gets a job in the Justice Department. Peter (Cusack), a hustler with a mysterious past, takes one look around him — the year is 1983, the triumphant crest of Reaganism — and realizes it’s an ends-justify-the-means kind of world. He gets a job as aide to a powerful senator (Richard Widmark) and then, through a series of manipulations so unconvincing I won’t bother to elaborate them, ends up running for the House of Representatives. Along the way, he screws over everybody he knows. At this point, you’d think Cusack would be a natural to play this sort of inside-the-Beltway grifter. But his performance, like the whole movie, lacks juice. True Colors is so busy preaching at you about Corruption In The ’80s that it never quite settles down and entertains. The film, which has an overly complicated script (by Kevin Wade), is like Wall Street minus Gordon Gekko. It takes the fun out of back-room political sleaziness — and out of political integrity, too.

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