Editor’s Note: Our review of Some Girl(s) originally ran during this year’s SXSW, but we’re running it again as the film opens in limited theatrical release starting June 28, 2013.
Any fan of playwright/screenwrtier/filmmaker Neil LaBute‘s honest depictions of cringe-inducing narcissism will be pleased by Some Girl(s). LaBute’s last few films – The Wickerman, Death at a Funeral, and Lakeview Terrace – have shown him going outside his comfort zone with varying results. Some Girl(s), which LaBute scripted (but didn’t direct) from his play of the same name, marks the theatrical return of the LaBute we love.
His greatest works often resemble a car crash in motion with the driver smiling through every ding, bone crush, and bump while the victims are left with serious pain. The driver here is simply credited as “Man” and played by Adam Brody. The victims are a few of Man’s ex-girlfriends, all of whom feature distinct personalities and past issues with him. There is the older woman (Emily Watson) he had an affair with, a young girl (Zoe Kazan) he took advantage of, the High School girlfriend (Jennifer Morrison), the tattooed Chicago girl (Mia Maestro) who made him feel cool and the final girl is played by Kristen Bell. He’s doing all this to right any wrongs before marrying his newest girl.
All of the girls only appear once, breaking the movie into chapters. Man is not shown interacting with anyone else but these “some girls”; it’s hotel room to hotel room for almost 90 minutes, with the brief exception of airport or hallway transition shots. Director Daisy von Scherler Mayer (Party Girl) doesn’t lend much breathing room between each girl, but perhaps that adds to the power of Some Girl(s).
Because of that pace and the subject matter, the character of the Man is exhausting. The fact that spending such a short period of time in a theater with this character is discomforting adds a whole other layer of sadness to the film: these girls had to spend years with this guy, perhaps never knowing the guy we see in the film’s final minutes. Even if they didn’t, it’s obvious he has caused some serious damage to each of them. He doesn’t care or bother to see that, since they are all just “some girls” to him.
As tedious as the male character is, he’s also highly entertaining, and the same goes for the film as well. No matter the degree of second-hand embarrassment elicited, LaBute always manages to find humor in awkward situations when it’s appropriate. Man makes corny Shakespeare references and acts as if not having a Facebook account is a telling aspect of his life. Brody plays him as someone who 100% thinks he’s well-intentioned and kind-hearted, no matter how ridiculous or aloof he sounds. Brody, along with the rest of the girls, make LaBute’s writing pop even further.
LaBute and Some Girl(s) have a way of digging under an audiences’ skin, by showing people who you hope to never run into or maybe have been. The acclaimed playwright shines a bright light on human ugliness while also asking us to laugh at it. That isn’t any new observation on LaBute, but Some Girl(s) shows him in the vicious playground once again in a multiplex, and director Mayer and the cast capture his voice exceedingly well.
The Upside: LaBute’s writing is quick and sharp, as usual; dramatically brutal without ever going “big”; an oblivious-devil-with-a-smile performance from Brody; the final shot
The Downside: The airport and hotel transitions need more breathing room
On The Side: David Schwimmer starred in the London stage production.