by Jake Kring-Schreifels
Written & Directed by Neil LaBute
Starring Stanley Tucci & Alice Eve
Now Playing in NYC at City Cinemas Village East
A man arrives at the doorstep of his former mistress with his whole life in suitcases. He has just left his wife of 24 years and goes to his past lover’s Brooklyn brownstone to take refuge. She lets him inside and they proceed to talk, cry, yell, whisper, and scare each other for the next hour and twenty minutes.
These are the bare bones of director Neil LaBute’s ‘Some Velvet Morning’, though there is hardly any flesh around it. What feels like a story meant for the stage is only occasionally heightened by camera placement and intentional close-ups of hands, of lipstick, and of tears. The most intriguing cinematic juxtaposition bookends the film, a blurry shot of the woman from above, resting on her couch, who later ends up on her stomach above the carpet floor.
Stanley Tucci and Alice Eve embody Fred and Velvet, respectively, creating an unsettling dynamic of fluctuating domination and subordination. Their discussions, often-angry monologues, migrate from room to room, level to level, tracking up and down her skinny staircases seemingly in tune with their levels of frustration. Tucci has this magnetizing manic capability and most of his dialogue is filled with condescension, his insults and desires sputtering through his unfiltered mouth. Eve glows in her bright red dress, apprehensive but self-confident.
None of it is particularly engrossing, but you keep watching to see who will walk out of the door first. It seems like it will never happen, as though the two are attached by a rubber band, stretching them apart and pushing them back together. Their backgrounds slowly peel like an onion and Fred’s growing obsession with Velvet offers what appears to be momentum. It’s really a masquerade.
The twist that ends ‘Some Velvet Morning’ is bound to receive mixed reactions. Some may be illuminated, but most others will feel frustrated and conned. Many even sickened. In the production notes, LaBute admits, “there can be a recklessness to love.” It seems appropriate to apply the same quality to this movie.