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Thomas Jay Ryan,
Theater instructor Jerry starts an affair with Mary, and that starts a chain of events that affect their respective partners Terri and Barry and other characters in the film, creating a web of relationships.Written by
With the friends like Mary, Barry, Terri, Cheri, Cary and Jerry
"Your Friends and Neighbors" (1998) is the second film by director/writer Neil LaBute and it tells the story of three couples and their complicated friendships and relationships. I've seen it more than once during the last couple of days - and I found it incredibly clever written, well acted (especially by Jason Patric and Catherine Keener - their only scene together was the second best in the movie - so dynamic and tight) and skillfully directed. LaBute certainly has a very unique sense of humor and he knows well the history of cinema. To give all characters the names that rhyme - Mary, Barry, Terri, Cheri, Cary and Jerry - was a clever idea - the characters are interchangeable in their relationships and it does not matter really, who is with whom - Mary with Barry or with Cary or Jerry or Barry with Barry, and Cheri with Terri or Jerry? The important thing is that they are selfish and often unpleasant and despicable people who are not happy with themselves and can't make happy their spouses or partners. Another interesting trick - the repeating scene in the Art gallery that starts with exactly the same words for each character but leads to different developments. I mentioned that LaBute knows his movies. Have you noticed the poster from Goddard's Le Mépris, (1963) aka "Contempt" with Brigitte Bardot? "Contempt" features one of the most fascinating and longest scenes of a breakup ever filmed. The breakup scene between Terri (Catherine Keener) and Jerry (Ben Stiller) started like in "Contempt" but it only lasted a few minutes and it was a good scene. Actually, I loved all scenes with Catherine Keener and if I have to choose one character that I liked, it would be Terry. Seems that Charlie Kaufman might have seen LaBute's movie because Terry and Maxine from "Being John Malkovich" have a lot in common. I was actually waiting for Terry to say to Jerry, "The thing is if you ever get me, you would not know what to do with me".
Jason Patric was a revelation - I don't know him very well but I remember that he gave a very good performance in "Narc". As for the scene in a steam room, it is not just the best of the film; it is one of the best scenes - monologues ever. I know not many would agree with me but the scene is as powerful, unforgettable and strangely erotic as the monologue in Bergman's "Persona". LaBute's writing, his camera, and mesmerizing performance by Patric made this scene an instant classic.
The film is not perfect and sometimes it drags but overall I found it interesting and enjoyable. You don't have to like the characters in order to like and appreciate the film. Sadly, the beautiful, sensual and talented Nastassja Kinski (Cherri) does not have much to play while Ben Stiller does and I am not his fan - even in this film.
LaBute's usage of "Metallica"s "Enter Sandman" (performed by Apocalyptica) during the opening and the closing credits instantly pulled me in and Bryony Atkinson's song "My Hollow" is terrific.
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