Your Friends and Neighbors
At some point in my fourth grade year, one of my highly educated publicschool teachers gathered us all in a circle and attempted to lecture us on sex education. To this day, there probably hasn't been a time in my life where I've heard the words "vagina" and "penis" spoken out loud more times in a single hour. Really, where else can you remember hearing somebody use the word "vulva" in a sentence? During the course of this giggle-plagued education extravaganza, I was also treated to this teacher's rather contrived assessment of the male and female psyches -- a feeling that was recalled precisely while watching Neil LaBute's "Your Friends and Neighbors."
Whatever this thing is -- high school psychology report or bad dinner theater -- it surely isn't a movie. Writer/director Neil ("In the Company of Men") LaBute takes damaged male and female psyches and divides them up into six characters so that he can examine the tragedy of modern relationships. There's Barry, (Aaron Eckhart ) who's married to Mary (Amy Brenneman), and Jerry (Ben Stiller), who's living with Terri (Catherine Keener). Then there are two tangential characters: Cary (Jason Patric) and Cheri (Nastassja Kinski).
The names are straight from the press packet, since I don't recall hearing them once in the film, which is LaBute's simplistic way of reinforcing that "everyman" quality. Barry is self-absorbed and dependent. Jerry is self-absorbed and co-dependent. Cary is self-absorbed and psychotic. Mary is indecisive non-aggressive. Terri is decisive aggressive. Cheri is non-aggressive co-dependent. Basically, this all amounts to a movie in which not a person has a clue about anything, and they are all eager to demonstrate that point in protracted, never-ending conversation.
It's sort of like "Men are From Mars, Women are from Venus" for egotistical pseudo-intellectuals, except that, as an added bonus, we're treated to a shot of Ben Stiller having sex with Catherine Keener. I don't want to bear witness to Ben Stiller having sex with Catherine Keener. I don't want to know that Stiller even thinks about sex. In fact, nothing in any movie should cause my mind to turn down any road that might involve any visualization of Stiller having sex. If I want that kind of crap, I'll watch National Geographic videos.
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