In the age of ever-increasing crassness on screen (see the Farrelly brothers' comedies), there are some filmmakers who can make serious commentary instead of just throwaway gags. Neil LaBute's second feature is a corkscrew... more » comedy of savage, bitter people who can't find happiness in many a thing, let alone sex. The film is not as tight or commanding as his first feature, the black-hearted In the Company of Men, but he gives six nameless characters six juicy parts with plenty to talk about. The emotional punch is devastating for those trying to find love and happiness on celluloid. One wife and husband (Amy Brenneman, Men's Aaron Eckhart) are nice people, living in a dream home, who can't connect sexually. Drama teacher Ben Stiller and live-in girlfriend Catherine Keener may just work out if, well, he didn't talk all the time. Stiller confesses his love for best friend Eckhart's wife; Keener starts an affair with artist assistant Nastassja Kinski. Then there's Jason Patric (who also produced) as a calculating, misogynistic doctor who has not had a peer on film or theater since David Mamet's Sexual Perversity in Chicago (which took a different film form as About Last Night...). Manipulative and forward, he's the white-hot core to LaBute's fire and has the monologue of the year to boot. LaBute's callous films aren't for everybody, but there is an art and clear-headedness to his work that most American independent filmmakers can't create on screen. Note: the six characters speak the only lines in the film, although through careful editing it never seems this way. --Doug Thomas« less
"by any stretch of the viewers' imagination! Director Neil LaBute does not seek to entertain, but to expose, in this morality play, I think.There are six players in the film version of social-sexual arrogance. Initially, you view them with varying degrees of interest, but by the end of the film, you dislike all of them, some more than most. LaBute, with slightly more budget than he had for his breakthrough debut, "In the Company of Men" (ICM), uses it wisely to attract excellent role-players, then films it well, in all indoor, and slightly claustrophobic settings. He continues his theme of the cruelty of the alpha male, to both the other sex, and his own male friends. Although each of the actors plays well (I particularly liked Aaron Eckhart, playing against type and doing a "180" from his role in ICM, as a poorly groomed, chubby and needy husband and friend) there is no question that the film is sought out by film afficianados to observe the performance of Jason Patric.
From the opening scene, Patric makes your skin crawl at the depths of his ability to hate the fairer sex. His hold over Stiller & Eckhart's characters is resonant in the fascinating steam room scene. Patric, deliberately cruel, is self-assured enough to fall into reverie about his infliction of power in a past homosexual rape. His intensity and believability make you wonder why Colin Farrell is getting all the good roles when Patric is a far more powerful actor.In this film, LaBute does not exceed his earlier work (ICM) but puts us on warning that he is a force to be reckoned with in filmmaking.A caution; most filmgoers will abhor this film. My recommendation is to see it for the experience, not the entertainment."
Serious exploration of self-centeredness
David Bonesteel | Fresno, CA United States | 01/04/2003
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This film follows the interrelations of six "friends" as they grope for self-fulfillment, usually at each other's expense. This is a grim, often ugly exploration of selfishness, featuring characters that somehow never developed the sense of empathy or generosity that enables one human being to connect with another on more than a superficial level. They equate being happy with being in a position of power over others wherein they are able to gratify their urges of the moment. When their behavior fails to make them happy, they become more jaded and sad and convinced that happiness is only a fantasy. A possible exception is the chilling sociopath played by Jason Patric, who appears to be entirely satisfied with his reprehensible conduct. In a cast of dislikable characters, he emerges as one of the most loathsome figures I have ever seen in a film. Perhaps not coincidentally, he is also the alpha among the film's male characters.Director/writer Neil LaBute's dialogue is sharp and telling. This is a serious and courageous exploration of the dark side of human nature."
Dark, comical, and disturbing
filmz | Golden, CO | 08/30/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I liked this movie because it is original, and you get very absorbed in the characters. The acting is very good, the story ties together, and it holds your attention. Best of all, at least for those who appreciate dark humor, this is very comical. It is, in my personal opinion, a brilliant, well directed film."
People will love it or hate it.
S. McHale | Costa Mesa, CA USA | 01/27/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"There are objectionable, even reprehensible qualities to human beings, urban life, modern relationships, etc. What makes this film a five-star for me is 1) how these qualities are held up to the light and observed and 2) the stellar acting job on behalf of the cast. I felt uncomfortable as if I was evesdropping on these morally ambiguous urbanites. Katherine Keener, that sweetheart of independent movies is a real cold, abrupt person in this and convincingly so. Amy Brenneman was such a believable fallen robin, I just wanted to scoop her up off the screen and nurture her. I could say a ton more, but Roger Ebert sums it up perfectly in his review. You can read it and others at the movie review query engine"
A quirky, risque dark comedy
Matthew Horner | USA | 03/28/2002
(4 out of 5 stars)
""Your Friends and Neighbors" is a dark, risque comedy about five people who are so self-centered that their ability to have a meaningful relationship is limited, at best. The movie doesn't always work, but when it does, it's brilliant. It also suffers by comparison to writer-director Neil LaBute's much admired first effort, In the Company of Men. LaBute contends that egocentric people are, in many ways, very much alike. In fact, he named his characters Mary, Barry, Terri, Cherri, Gary and Jerry. Such people, he says, are not only obsessed with getting their own way, but also tend to want the same things over and over again. Since no one can give them these things, they are never satisfied. Jerry [Ben Stiller] is a drama teacher who has an affair with his best friend's wife, Mary [Amy Brenneman]. While the affair ends practically before it begins, it causes Jerry's girlfriend, Terri [Catherine Keener], to have an affair with Cherri [Natassja Kinski]. Mary's husband, Barry [Aaron Eckhart], does a lot of soul searching, which always ends in his asking, "Is it me?" Meanwhile, the totally vain doctor, Gary [Jason Patric], stirs up this brew as much as he can, because other people's flaws keep him from dealing with his own, which are major. Their stories are both funny and sad.LaBute directs in the style of realism, which means his performers act very much as people in real life would. There are a lot of conversational pauses and blank looks to show that no one is really comprehending what others are saying. Many viewers will find this irritating. We have been brainwashed by Hollywood's glossy, perfect characters who bond with one another by tossing off witless one-lines and cliches. Or they make a short, noble speech, and everything is cozy again. Life, of course, ain't that simple. If it were, we could get through it in two hours.Your Friends and Neighbors is low budget. It sometimes seems like a filmed play. The actors are an ensemble, and several have worked with LaBute before. They are all very good. Especially interesting are Jason Patric and Ben Stiller, who, despite their commercial successes, remain true actors. Patric was spellbinding last year in Incognito, as was Stiller in Zero Effect. [These were two of 1998's very best independent films and worth adding tou your DVD collection.]This movie is recommended for people who take movies seriously, at least from time to time. It is the type of film which can not be called an entertainment, but which stays with the viewer long after the big but trite pictures have faded from memory."