Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Hard to like `Friends & Neighbors'

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Hard to like `Friends & Neighbors'

Article excerpt

Neil LaBute's first movie, In the Company of Men, was a

chilling black comedy that followed the cruel plan of two

white-collar men to seduce and then dump a vulnerable deaf

woman. Its message was clear: Men are scum.

In his less successful follow-up, Your Friends & Neighbors, he's

expanded that message: Men are still scum. Women are, too.

It follows six thirtyish yuppies in a nameless college town as

they think about sex, talk about sex and, occasionally, have sex

-- joyless and deadend sex.

In the Company of Men worked because LaBute made us -- men,

anyway -- accomplices to the deceit of his villains, who were

ruthless in their game of seduction.

But Your Friends & Neighbors reflects heavy-handed,

unconvincing cruelty, written from atop an ivory tower.

Look at these foolish mortals, the movie says, scurrying about

in their pathetic lives. And LaBute's the one holding the

magnifying glass on them, aiming the sun's rays, making them

squirm. He wants us to squirm with them, but they're so unlikely

and unlikable as to be hardly recognizable as people. So who

cares if they burn to a crisp?

Ben Stiller's a pompous college drama teacher ("Shakespeare is

a gift, really") who yaks about things like "closure." Catherine

Keener's his wife, fed up with his constant talking, especially

in bed ("Let's just do it. This is not a travelogue, you know").

Aaron Eckhardt, bloated and dowdy from his days as the sleek

predator in In the Company of Men, is a hapless married man who

prefers sex with himself than with his wife. Amy Brenneman is

his wife, understandably dying for affection.

Jason Patric is a ruthless misogynist who tapes himself talking

dirty, as future ammunition in the sexual wars ("If I was a

chick, I'd believe that"). …

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