Like writer/director LaBute’s In The Company of Men, his 1997 debut, Your Friends and Neighbors deals with a theme that’s current in cinema – that all men are rubbish. LaBute focuses on three self-obsessed friends, travelling further into their psyches as the film progresses. And the further he travels, the shallower the trio appear. Contemporary gents, LaBute appears to be saying, have benefited enormously from the liberalising cultural shift of the 1960s, but these days instead of being high, they’re more high and dry.
For some people this film might be a bit preachy, a bit speechy, and it’s true that LaBute’s origins as a writer for the stage seem fairly evident. Perhaps the way for me to sell it is to describe it as a dyspeptic Woody Allen drama, except LaBute is prepared to venture beyond the bedroom door (a territory Allen never penetrates, if that’s the word, unless armed with an arsenal of jokes). Aaron Eckhart, Ben Stiller and Jason Patric (after Speed 2 this is revelatory stuff) are the three dudes, all dressed properly, in good jobs, used to the best. Amy Brenneman and Catherine Keener play Eckhart and Stiller’s other (definitely better) halves, with Patric and Nastassja Kinski as a pair of singletons spreading a little nastiness wherever they lay their libidinous heads.
LaBute has been out there, in the gyms and workplace eateries, the coffee bars and metros, and he’s noticed how bloody selfish people, especially men, seem to have become. And these are the winners in life! A great film for lovers of dark comedy in the Mamet style. Just don’t expect to be whistling once it’s over.
© Steve Morrissey 1999