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IN SHORT: See it for Jason Patric's blisteringly good performance.
Last time out, in In the Company of Men, writer/director Neil LaBute presented a pair of despicable lead characters. This time out, in Your Friends & Neighbors, the ties that bind are characters that are dysfunctional and impotent -- both emotionally and physically. It is without doubt a film student flick. You may walk out muttering "oy" like the guy in front of me. You may walk out swearing "never to date, have sex or marry" like a woman I met afterwards (tee hee). Or you may walk out muttering "Who knew Jason Patric was that good?" as Cranky did. ("Yes, he was good, wasn't he?" said the woman.)
By way of explanation, let me point out that I personally didn't care much either way for Your Friends &Neighbors. From the point-of-view of what is appreciated from the film student mentality, it is a most excellent film. From a standard, do I care and am I moved/ did I enjoy it POV, it is much less so. Actors love jumping onto roles that allow them to play unsympathetic characters. The challenge is in creating a role which makes us pay attention, in one way or another, despite the unlike-ability of the character. Yes, I'm making up words here, but there's no other way to explain the sexist, vicious, chauvinistic and totally Neanderthal character that Jason Patric plays. He's totally detestable, yet you will sit in your theater seat and feel totally superior to the ape. That's making you pay attention, and that gets Patric added to my "best of the year" list.
Cary (Patric) the neanderthal, who rehearses his sex talk and is verbally abusive to every woman he meets, is best friends with Barry (Aaron Eckhart), paunchy, insecure, and obsessed with sexually pleasing his wife, Mary (Amy Brennerman). Mary loves her husband, but not the sex, falls into an affair with Barry's friend Jerry (Ben Stiller), a wimp theater professor who hits on his students and likes to talk way too much during sex. Jerry's live in love Terri (Christine Keeler) falls into the arms of artist's assistant Cheri (Nastassja Kinski) when the affair is uncovered. Terri is a cold-hearted woman, who prefers the sound of silence in partners of either sex, meaning Cheri doesn't shut up, either.
It's got the makings of a soap opera but doesn't build the emotional highs and lows that would go with that genre. Cranky thought his life was an incredibly depressing lot, but it pales in comparison with the way these folk screw up, literally and figuratively. As their various relationships break apart and reform, at least one very major surprise unloads at the very end.
Be glad I've identified the characters, 'cuz Neil's script doesn't. As friends do, each character addresses each other in the familiar. Not even the outsider, Kinski, uses her name when she meets each of the other cast members in the art gallery in which she works. These are fascinating scenes, because each one is a word for word repetition of a standard introduction that Cheri has delivered time and time again. Watching each character react, and then veer off in different directions delivers bigger laughs each time the scene repeats itself.
Oh, God, I'm writing like a film student. I hate when that happens. I hate when the dialog is so well scripted that I scramble to write down samples in the dark. I hate it when that same sparkling dialog comes out of the mouths of characters who are pathetic and unlikable. Remember what I wrote above about what actors like to do? In Your Friends & Neighbors they do it in spades. They do it well. If you hang at the local arthouse, this is absolutely for you. Else, probably not. Which leads to a most surprising rating . . .
On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Eight Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to Your Friends & Neighbors, he would have paid . . .
I'd dismiss this flick with a "strictly for film students" line
and a $3.00, rent it rating. It's double the usual due to Jason Patric's
performance. It's that good.
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