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USA 2013
Directed by
Neil LaBute
85 minutes
Rated MA

Reviewed by
Chris Thompson
1 stars

Some Velvet Morning

Synopsis: Suitcases in hand, middle aged lawyer, Fred (Stanley Tucci), arrives unexpectedly on the doorstep of his former mistress, Velvet (Alice Eve) four years after they ended their relationship. He tells her that he’s finally left his wife but when she rejects his attempts to rekindle their romance his affections evolve into obsession,  revealing the darker side of their past and something more.

The first few minutes of this film are elegant and visually strong. Velvet reclines on a sofa, wearing a striking red dress, listening to classical music on her headphones. The doorbell rings. And it rings again, insistently. When she eventually gives in and goes to answer it, she finds Fred standing there, unshaven and uncertain.  In the body language and facial expressions that pass between them through the glass door we form a clear opinion of who these two are, or were, and what this moment might mean. But then they start talking...  and they keep on talking, non-stop, for the next 82 minutes.

Writer/director Neil LaBute had already established himself as a successful playwright when he broke into filmmaking with his 1997 film In The Company Of Men and has been quite prolific on the screen since then with films like Nurse Betty (2000), not to mention misfires like his remakes of The Wicker Man and Death At A Funeral. His stage origins are front and centre in this disappointing two-hander.

There’s just way too much dialogue for the screen to handle and very little of it is, in any case, of any great substance. Granted, these two very fine actors give it their best shot but with so much glib banter, exposition of back story and interior emotion to deliver as they shift from room to room in the house where the entire film takes place, it’s a near impossible task. And even if the content was more engaging, the film suffers from its staginess. Perhaps it would work better in a theatre where it’s the actors who determine the pace and rhythm of their dialogue but in a film it’s the editor who determines where our focus will be and how the dialogue will play.  And, in this film at least, it just doesn’t work.

LaBute has been quoted as saying that he wanted to make a film that feels like an argument that the audience has walked in on by mistake. In some ways he’s achieved that but, walking into an argument between two strangers doesn’t automatically make for good drama, especially when Fred is a wholly unlikeable character and Velvet seems perplexingly submissive to him.

And this is where Some Velvet Morning becomes difficult to talk about without giving away crucial information that LaBute withholds from us until the very end. Suffice to say that what is revealed to us in the closing minutes makes a cursory move towards mitigating some of the earlier failings of the film but, rather than being clever (which would seem to be the intention) it creates a whole new set of problems that leaves us (or least me) feeling like we’ve wasted our time on a cynical exercise that amounts to little more than a tedious male fantasy.




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