What this says about the women who share their beds is the baffling question that hangs in the putrid air of this movie.


A Illusion review by Joan Ellis.

"Your Friends and Neighbors" is Neil LaBute's sequel to his cruel editorial about the irrelevancy of women in last year's controversial movie, "In the Company of Men." In a successful attempt to universalize his new movie, he leaves his characters nameless. This time, he draws men and women as a knot of selfish Yuppies whose empty shells are already disintegrating into dust. At least it's a more balanced picture. The women are as hollow as the men.

The angry women are emotionally abandoned in bed by their impotent men, who spend a lot of time in the health club with their best male friends talking about the best sex they ever had or fantasizing about the wonders that lie ahead. One of the women turns to another woman (Nastassja Kinski) for escape; another has an affair with a man.

In characteristically ugly fashion, Mr. LaBute introduces us to two loveless couples and a bachelor trapped in barren sex. Jason Patric opens the movie by recording his masturbation on tape for his later listening pleasure during workouts at the health club. He's a misogynist who is probably gay, but lacks the courage either to admit it or enjoy it. While Ben Stiller has sex with Catherine Keener, he carries on a Woody Allenesque dialogue with himself as she grips her pillow in rage and boredom. Aaron Eckhart and Amy Brenneman have a slightly different pattern. His pleasure is self-given, "when she's in the shower." "My wife's good, but she's not me!" When it's curtain time, these men can't perform.

What Mr. LaBute does very well is to convey the insignificance of these people by showing that they lie habitually-to themselves, to each other, to their mates. They lie in the stumbling, unfinished sentences of inept social performers in an artificial world. Note well the marvelous detail of the men rattling their ice cubes as they begin a lie, a tiny distraction that allows an extra moment of preparation.

Actor Ben Stiller creates an irritating whiner who is literal-minded, humorless, and in need of constant reassurance that nothing is his fault. Aaron Eckhart's husband is an especially empty vessel. Jason Patric's bachelor is a tower of articulate brutality. Pounding on the bathroom wall, he shouts at a woman whose menstrual blood has stained his 380-count designer sheets. He completes a vicious verbal rape of Stiller's girlfriend in a bookstore. And when he reveals his "finest sexual moment," it is a lyrical memory of a high-school gang rape inflicted on an unpopular boy.

If it's true, as common wisdom has it, that men think of sex every 12 minutes, Neil LaBute and Kenneth Starr are telling us that, in fiction and in fact, most men lie habitually about sex to their mates and to each other. What this says about the women who share their beds is the baffling question that hangs in the putrid air of this movie.

Film Critic : JOAN ELLIS
Word Count : 493
Studio : Polygram
Rating : R
Running time : 1h40m

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