Your Friends And Neighbors
Rating -

Drama/Comedy (US); 1998; Rated R; 99 Minutes

Amy Brenneman: Mary
Aaron Eckhart: Barry
Catherine Keener: Terri
Nastassja Kinski: Cheri
Jason Patric: Cary
Ben Stiller: Jerry

Produced by Steve Golin, Alix Madigan, Jason Patric, Stephen Pevner and Phillip Stever; Directed and screenwritten by Neil LaBute

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Written by DAVID KEYES

"Your Friends And Neighbors" is like Monopoly. There are all of these different, mind-boggling players who only care about themselves, and couldn't give a damn if or if not another one of the players wins or loses something. They are there strictly for their own benefit; they want whatever they can get their hands on, and will take anything that is given to them. However, they aren't the type of people who put others before themselves. Heck, this is Monopoly; your there for yourself. Playing the game has many different turns, but in the end, you only care or want the good things to occur to you. Who cares about anyone else? It's just a game.

Neil LaBute's vision of our friends and neighbors has characters like this. They seem to think that life and its purposes are all part of a game like Monopoly. They care only about themselves; it's always a 'gimme gimme' situation, where they don't mind if they have to step on people, just as long as they get what they want. It's all a matter of who to step on and when to step on them, and in matters like this, the others do exactly the same to the ones who've done it before; everyone is a parallel, misguided human being. Now the only question is, do these people actually exist?

I ask this because Mr. LaBute likes to base his movies on twisted, somewhat realistic, characters. His other movie, "In The Company Of Men," was about two high-class guys who played mean jokes on an innocent woman. One of them dated her, dumped her, the other did the same, etc. It was a repeating process that emerged as one of the best entertainments of last year, and this year, LaBute has done it again.

This time, though, his movie reveals the full angle of his talent and passion; "Your Friends And Neighbors" ponders and answers the questions that we as individuals might have about the people who live around us. Is the gossip true? Do our friends and neighbors like to sleep around? Do they only care about themselves? In certain situations; maybe. In others, probably not. Gossip and rumors float around in typical neighborhoods around the country with these things, but the only way to be conclusive is by being there to see these things for yourself. LaBute's movies show us, demonstrate to us, and explains to us all of these things as he believes them to happen. The only difference between this and "In The Company Of Men" is the fact that we actually buy into this one. We actually believe these characters exist. Even stranger, we think that LaBute may have been around friends and neighbors like this during his lifetime. How else would he portray human selfishness so well?

The film stars, more importantly, six, neutral players who, at first glance, want things only to satisfy their needs. They are the characters in question, here; the selfish, misguided players who step on who they want, when they want to, and in any way they can. To get a better picture of the sense that's occurring, you must first realize this:

Marry (Amy Brenneman) and Barry (Aaron Eckhart) are a couple. So are Terri (Catherine Keener) and Jerry (Ben Stiller). Cheri (Nastassjia Kinski) and Cary (Jason Patric) are single people. As the movie progresses, each of them interchanges with one another in sexual relations. That is, one person sleeps with the other's wife, one of the wives sleeps with another one of the men, etc. It goes on and on like this, in so many numerous accounts that it's sometimes hard to keep up. But don't get the impression that the movie is about sex, because it isn't. It's about what makes these people selfish and twisted; the facts and judgments on what their personalities deliver, what actions they choose to take, and what consequences they endure. A plot summarization is irrelevant here, because everything is hit on the same note; one sleeps with someone, others react--repeat. Because their lives are so screwed up and so similar in structure, we even find it kind of sad and depressing. We are even thankful that (hopefully) our lives aren't like this as well.

But we like the movie regardless. Neil LaBute's movies seem to portray the types of people we only hear about through rumors and gossip; the friends and neighbors of trash talk and smutty tendencies. As "In The Company Of Men" pushed buttons on the human telephone with its ignorant male specimens, "Your Friends And Neighbors" puts its characters on speed dial.

1998, David Keyes, Please e-mail the author here if the above review contains any spelling or grammar mistakes.
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