***1/2 (out of four)
Many years before his remakes captured Nicolas Cage screaming about honey (“The Wicker Man”) and revisited a comedy that shouldn’t have been made the first time (“Death at a Funeral”), Neil LaBute was a wickedly perceptive student of controversial behavior. With the unofficial trilogy of “In the Company of Men,” “Your Friends and Neighbors” and “The Shape of Things,” the writer-director looked selfish, unhinged people in the eye and won the staring contest. Those movies dare to create loathsome characters and ask who will admit to understanding where they’re coming from.
Finally—at least in terms of the big screen; LaBute’s extremely active in theater—that fearless social analyst returns in “Some Velvet Morning,” a two-character piece that finds Stanley Tucci (“The Hunger Games: Catching Fire”) and Alice Eve (“Star Trek Into Darkness”) brilliantly rising to the challenges of delicately drawn characters. The whole thing takes place in the home of Velvet (Eve), who opens the door to find Fred (Tucci), who’s left his wife of 24 years and wants to make up for time apart from his former mistress. Velvet’s not into it; she has lunch plans with Fred’s son and, sheesh, couldn’t he have called first to make sure his feelings weren’t a one-way street? He grows cruel and resentful; she begins bargaining to see what it will take for the guy to table this discussion.
As always in a LaBute relationship saga, things grow dark and stormy in an unexpected and revealing fashion. It’s difficult to say much without giving away too much, so let’s leave it at this: “Some Velvet Morning” is about the elaborate games people play and the condition we leave others in when we finish with them. How do you know what’s too far if you never toe the line, and how do you stop from losing control when you get there? Who really gets to determine what’s safe and acceptable—lovers, family, society or ourselves?
LaBute plays a dangerous game of power and possessiveness in a bit of a vacuum. Some may not buy the trust “Some Velvet Morning” requires or tolerate its intimate, disturbing questions. Those who do will think about the difficulty of capturing/recapturing magic and the wild actions motivated by love, lust and need. You’ll want to watch the film again immediately, and it will rattle around in your head for hours. If not longer.
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