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"YOUR FRIENDS AND NEIGHBORS"
(1998) (Ben Stiller, Amy Brenneman) (R)

Alcohol/
Drugs
Blood/Gore Disrespectful/
Bad Attitude
Frightening/
Tense Scenes
Guns/
Weapons
Mild *Minor Heavy None None
Imitative
Behavior
Jump
Scenes
Music
(Scary/Tense)
Music
(Inappropriate)
Profanity
Minor None None None Extreme
Sex/
Nudity
Smoking Tense Family
Scenes
Topics To
Talk About
Violence
Extreme Minor Mild Mild Minor


QUICK TAKE:
Drama: Six acquaintances and friends try to sort out their tangled up relationships.
PLOT:
Jerry (BEN STILLER) and his live-in girlfriend, Terri (CATHERINE KEENER), are having problems with their relationship. A theater professor, Jerry has a tendency to overanalyze matters, especially in bed, and this drives Terri crazy who prefers absolute silence while making love.

Barry (AARON ECKHART) and his wife, Mary (AMY BRENNEMAN), have been married for years, but likewise have problems in bed. Having become nearly incompatible, he's turned to self- gratification to fulfill his needs. Both men share their common problems between themselves and with a third friend, Cary (JASON PATRIC), an egomaniacal misogynist who often uses sex as a retaliatory weapon.

Things become complicated when at the end of a double date, Jerry confronts Mary with his feelings for her. Soon, they begin to sneak off for clandestine meetings, but at the same time, Terri begins seeing Cheri (NASTASSJA KINSKI), an art assistant, and they have an affair. As these two developments unfold, their repercussions begin to affect all six people involved.

WILL KIDS WANT TO SEE IT?
Unless they're fans of someone in the cast or of writer/director Neal LaBute's little seen, but controversial first film, "In The Company of Men," it's not very likely.
WHY THE MPAA RATED IT: R
As of this review date, the reason wasn't available, but we'd guess it was for profanity, sexually related discussions, and sexual activity.
CAST AS ROLE MODELS:
  • BEN STILLER plays a man who wants and tries to have an affair with his best friend's wife.
  • CATHERINE KEENER plays his aloof girlfriend who has a problem with talking during sex and enters into a lesbian relationship.
  • AARON ECKHART plays a husband who turns to self-gratification after he and his wife have become incompatible in bed.
  • AMY BRENNEMAN plays the wife who has a momentary fling with Jerry, and nearly sleeps with him.
  • JASON PATRIC plays a meanspirited and cocky misogynist who uses sex as a retaliatory weapon.
  • NASTASSJA KINSKI plays a woman who has a lesbian affair with Terri.
  • CAST, CREW, & TECHNICAL INFO

    HOW OTHERS RATED THIS MOVIE


    OUR TAKE: 6 out of 10
    In his 1997 feature film debut, "In The Company Of Men," writer/director Neil LaBute examined the "politics" of relationships between men and women and helmed one of the more controversial, but also critically acclaimed films of the year. Shot on a shoestring budget, the film stood out not only for its misogynist plot (two guys who've had it with women decide to get a deaf coworker to fall for both of them before simultaneously dumping her), but also for its witty and sharply crafted dialogue.

    Much like that film, his sophomore outing, "Your Friends And Neighbors," explores the sexual side of such relationships and includes great writing and several new, but still unsavory characters. Unlike his first effort, however, this one features a weaker plot that isn't intriguing enough to fully compensate for the meanspirited behavior. Perhaps LaBute should have called this one "Your Enemies and Other Despicable People Who Live Nearby."

    In all fairness, the film's sextet cast is filled with clearly distinctive characters whose behavior is intriguing, but not always entertaining to watch. Interestingly, they're never identified by name at any point in the movie (and only in the press kit), assumedly a point LaBute's making with his film being about common, everyday men and women.

    Clearly the most interesting character is Jason Patric's volatile misogynist. While Patric ("Speed 2," "Rush") has played edgy parts before, this is a creation as equally disturbing as any seen on the screen in years (or at least since LaBute's last film). Cary is one of those despicable characters whose arrogance and meanspirited nature is so disturbing that you'll easily come to hate him, but will find that you can't keep your eyes from him as he easily commands every scene in which he appears.

    Doing a polar opposite is Aaron Eckhart who played a character similar to Patric's in "In The Company Of Men." Without prior knowledge, one would never know that this is the same actor, especially since his physical appearance (no longer lean and trim, different hair color, etc...) and demeanor are so completely different. Perhaps he's hiding from the legions of women who came to hate him for his earlier, caustic role.

    Heir apparent to the bumbling and neurotic romantic characters "created" (and seemingly vacated) by Woody Allen, Ben Stiller ("There's Something About Mary," "Flirting With Disaster") is as good as ever. While inhabiting a more modern day, but less "geeky" version of the character type Allen popularized throughout his career, Stiller's performance is quite funny.

    Concerning the fairer gender, the characters certainly aren't as developed as their male counterparts. While Nastassja Kinski ("One Night Stand," "Father's Day") is decent and Catherine Keener ("Out Of Sight," "The Real Blonde") is appropriately bitchy as a woman with a neurotic obsession about talking during sex, Amy Brenneman ("Heat," "Daylight") clearly inhabits the strongest female character this film has to offer.

    I've always liked Brenneman's work -- all the way back to her appearances on the first season of TV's "N.Y.P.D. Blue" -- and believe her to be one of the more emotive character actresses working today. Few can so easily convey inner feelings with a simple look, but she's got that knack and it helps her here as she delivers yet another fine performance.

    Despite the diverse and interesting -- if not always likeable -- characters, the film suffers from a weak and near nonexistent plot. While "In The Company Of Men" has similarly based characters, its plot was interesting. One never knew how it would turn out and whether either of the guys would fall for the woman they were planning to emotionally destroy. Here, the plot mainly concerns the repercussions of what will happen should Jerry have a fling with his best friend's wife.

    While that sounds intriguing enough to carry the film, in reality most of the time is spent having the characters sitting around discussing their relationships and sexual experiences. Although some of them are interesting -- including an extremely disturbing one told by Cary about a high school "encounter" years earlier -- they begin to take on the feeling that you've suddenly sat down in a group therapy session.

    That, or an extended and less humorous episode of Seinfeld" where a whole lot of hot air is expelled for nothing in particular by the story's end. While that might not bother you if you like dialogue laden films, I personally prefer a bit of plot with my talk.

    Even so, the film is usually mesmerizing to watch -- sort of like spying on people sitting around and revealing their secrets -- and offers an interesting exploration of today's sexual and nonsexual relationships. Featuring some vividly constructed characters -- including yet another strong misogynist villain who could play tag team with LaBute's other similar creations -- the film is decent, but not great.

    For me, I would have found the film more entertaining had more of a plot existed to justify the occasionally interesting, but dialogue heavy standalone scenes. Thus, we give "Your Friends And Neighbors" -- another film that will likely polarize audiences into either loving or hating it -- a 6 out of 10.

    OUR WORD TO PARENTS:
    While many of the film's categories have little or no major objectionable content, several do. Most notably, the film constantly deals with sexual situations and dialogue, and does contain several encounters (with movement and sounds) as well as some limited nudity. Profanity is extreme with more than 70 "f" words and an assortment of others, and plenty of bad attitudes abound, particularly demonstrated by the character played by Jason Patric. While it's doubtful many kids will want to see this film, you should definitely take a closer look at any of the content that you may find troublesome.

    ALCOHOL OR DRUG USE
  • Barry and Mary have Jerry and Terri over for dinner and they drink wine.
  • Cary and Barry drink beer in a restaurant.
  • Mary and Barry have wine with dinner.
  • BLOOD/GORE
  • A painting/drawing seen in a museum shows a sketch-like image of a person with a large and open (but not bloody) gash in their neck.
  • DISRESPECTFUL/BAD ATTITUDE
  • Jerry and Mary have both for having a near consummated affair, particularly since she's married to his best friend.
  • Terri is a cold and aloof person who's mean to both Jerry and Cheri.
  • Cary has extreme cases of both as not only does he belittle nearly everyone around him, but he also uses sex as a retaliatory weapon, and even recounts a story where he was involved in a gang rape of a male student in high school.
  • Barry and Cary comment that they've never liked Terri.
  • Cary badgers a woman (whom we briefly see in his bedroom) for suddenly getting her period and staining his sheets as they were preparing to have sex.
  • Cary recounts a time when he sent a woman an official looking medical notice falsely stating that a guy she had slept with had AIDS.
  • FRIGHTENING SCENES
  • Some viewers may be unsettled by Cary's story of being involved in the gang rape of a male student in high school (we don't see any of it, and only hear his description).
  • GUNS/WEAPONS
  • None.
  • IMITATIVE BEHAVIOR
  • Phrases: "F*ck off, "Go f*ck yourself," "Lay" and "Screwing" (sexual), "Bitch" (toward women), "Chick" (referring to women), "Up yours," "Balls" (testicles), "D*cking around" and "Dyke."
  • JUMP SCENES
  • None.
  • MUSIC (SCARY/TENSE)
  • None.
  • MUSIC (INAPPROPRIATE)
  • None.
  • PROFANITY
  • At least 74 "f" words (18 used sexually, as is the term "screwing"), 22 "s" words, 5 slang terms for male genitals ("d*ck," "c*ck," and "pr*ck"), 3 slang terms for female genitals ("c*nt" and "sn*tch"), 3 slang terms for breasts (the "t" word), 5 asses (2 used with "hole"), 1 hell, and 10 uses of "Jesus," 8 of "God," 4 of "G-damn," 2 each of "Oh Jesus" and "Oh God" and 1 use each of "For Christ's sakes" and "Oh Christ" as exclamations.
  • SEX/NUDITY
  • We see Cary presumably having sex with someone as he's quite sweaty, and is moving in a sexual fashion and making comments such as "You're a good lay," "I feel special going inside you," and "I always think of you as a special f*ck." It turns out, however, that he's just practicing and recording his comments to observe his own behavior.
  • As Jerry teaches a theater class and demonstrates some acting techniques, he bends over his young female assistant, dramatically flips up her long skirt and comments that, "I'll get into her the back way."
  • We see Jerry having sex with Terri from behind (that includes graphic movement and sounds, but no nudity). She gets irritated with his talking during this and says, "Your thing is nearly in the back of my throat, do you think I'm going to miss that?" "Why don't you just do it? I don't need the narration." They then stop and moments later we see him in his underwear.
  • When commenting on the "best lay" he's ever had, Barry comments that it's him doing himself. He says, "Nobody gives me more pleasure than me....Nobody makes me come like I do."
  • Later, we see Barry and Mary trying to have sex in what they call the "side saddle position" (her on her back, he beside her), but don't see any nudity. After they stop trying, Barry comments about the position they were trying as unnatural and says "I'm still quite hard" and that they can start again, but they don't. Thus, moments later, we see him masturbating while she sleeps (or acts like she's sleeping) as we see his hand rhythmically moving under the sheets.
  • We hear just a bit of some sexual escapade that Cary's recounting and hear him say, "I slipped my c*ck out..."
  • We see Terri and Cheri kiss and later find them in bed presumably after having had lesbian sex.
  • Mary and Terri briefly talk about their personal "best sex" (but nothing specific), and Mary says that she doesn't keep track of such things, but that there have been some good encounters.
  • Cheri shows some cleavage in an outfit she wears.
  • Upon meeting Cheri, Cary tells her, "I bet you're tremendous in bed" (and she walks away).
  • Barry, supposedly quoting from a book his wife's been reading, tells Mary that they need to see each other like meat and says, "You need to see me as a big penis, and you need to be this huge vagina to me..."
  • Mary, Terri and Cheri sit around and discuss "What's your ideal f*ck?" Terri comments that her ideal encounter is one where there's no talking.
  • Later, Jerry and Terri have just finished having sex (nothing seen) and he comments that he "didn't make a peep" and badgers her for not moving during sex.
  • We see Jerry and Mary after they tried to have sex in a motel room, but he apparently had problems performing and comments "I'm usually much more hard or firm than this."
  • The guys sit around in a sauna (where we briefly see part of the side of Jerry's bare butt) and comment on "the best you ever had" (regarding sex). Cary then goes into a lengthy description that his best was when gang raping another male student in high school (that gets rather graphic in his description, such as talking about the movement and saying, "I know he came when I did").
  • We briefly see the side of a woman's breast as she cowers in Cary's bathroom.
  • When Jerry comments about Barry being a friend, someone facetiously comments that he should use that term "...when you're down their lapping between his wife's legs..."
  • We see Jerry getting out of bed with another woman.
  • We see Barry masturbating under the sheets again while (presumably) talking to a sex-line on his phone, but he has problems continuing.
  • Cary comments to a woman, "If I stick it in you, you cry. If I put it down by your ass, you cry."
  • We see Cary in bed with Mary and after she asks him to hold her, he asks whether they're going to "f*ck." She says yes and we then briefly see her bare breast as he begins to caress it with his hand.
  • SMOKING
  • Mary smokes a few times.
  • TENSE FAMILY SCENES
  • Barry and Mary are having problems in their relationship which are exacerbated when he learns of her near fling with Jerry (but no kids are involved).
  • TOPICS TO TALK ABOUT
  • Affairs with others, especially with people involved with others you know.
  • VIOLENCE
  • Terri violently shreds a hardcover book that Mary gave to Jerry.
  • Cary not so subtly confronts and threatens Terri and says that "(If you) continue d*cking around, I'll knock you on your ass."



  • Reviewed July 24, 1998

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