Neil LaBute

LaBute

The past few years have been strange for Neil LaBute. Not personally speaking, unless TMZ covers LaBute’s life and I missed something, but his filmography took a turn with 2006′s The Wicker Man. He went from directing The Shape of Things to Nicolas Cage in a bear suit screaming about bees. He followed that YouTube sensation with Lakeview Terrace and Death at a Funeral. He was trying his hand at new material, which in today’s world, is seen as strange. But LaBute has returned to directing his own material, where the border between the stage and film is broken down. Some Velvet Morning is set in one location with two characters, Fred (Stanley Tucci) and Velvet (Alice Eve), working out their feelings with explosive results. For LaBute, this film is a return to his roots. We got to talk to LaBute about his writing process, what makes something cinematic and why he likely wouldn’t adapt “Fat Pig.”

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Stanley Tucci can now add “LaBute’s classical ass” to his profile. Writer/Director Neil LaBute has always been known for writing vicious men who put their female counterparts through the ringer. Naturally, that’s what Tucci’s character does in Some Velvet Morning. Tucci plays Fred, a man attempting to worm his way back into Velvet’s (Alice Eve) life. He toys with her, manipulates her, and tries to break her down just enough that she comes crawling back into his arms. Some Velvet Morning is set in one house with two characters, which means Tucci and Eve are in the camera’s eye for all 82 minutes of its runtime. It makes for a challenge, but Tucci was more than game for the film’s fast schedule. Of course, there were a few things that helped.

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Here’s something that, on it’s own, isn’t particularly newsworthy: Melissa Leo might star in a hypothetical movie that hasn’t been greenlit yet. Yawn. I know. But in a larger context, this wishful thinking suddenly becomes not entirely dull. The film-to-be in question is The Toll, from playwright/director Neil LaBute. Leo would play a New Jersey tollbooth operator who stumbles upon a potential terrorist attack against the entire East coast, and, as tollbooth operators are known to do, takes down the entire terrorist cell single-handedly. LaBute describes the film as “a character piece, to take a middle-aged woman and put her in a crisis you would normally find Bruce Willis. It’s finding someone who has none of the supposed attributes of an action hero and yet asked to do all of the things that those people are asked to do.” And that’s something essentially non-existent in the current film market.

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The protagonist of Some Girl(s) is as cringe-inducing as some of playwright Neil LaBute‘s most famous stories. From The Shape of Things and In The Company of Men to (last but not least) The Wicker Man, LaBute has a natural ability to dig under the skin of an audience. He often shows us worlds and characters that are far from pleasant, leading to films and plays which are not the most easily digestible, depending on your sense of humor and threshold for conventionally unlikable characters. LaBute doesn’t use that brand of character to annoy an audience, but to take them on a ride to new places. For some, that ride isn’t one they want to go on, and he has been the target of some heated criticism and outright name calling. The film of his play Some Girl(s), which he adapted himself for director Daisy von Scherler Mayer, doesn’t shock the audience in the way some expect from LaBute, but it has been met with some familiar reactions. I spoke with LaBute when the film premiered at South by Southwest this year, and that was an extensive conversation about his process as a writer and storytelling in general. This time around we discussed the reactions his work tends to draw. Even after an hour in total of interviewing him this year, there’s still plenty of ground to be covered, but for now here’s another round with the writer.

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review some girls

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.

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LaBute

Playwright, screenwriter, and filmmaker Neil LaBute‘s stories aren’t for the faint of heart. They can be grueling in their dark humor, awkwardness and characters who will go as far as they have to for their own gain. Some Girl(s), which LaBute scripted from his own stage play, recently made its premiere at SXSW and sits comfortably in the gut-punching world his fans have come to love. The lead of the film, the Man (Adam Brody), is a selfish, narcissistic writer who isn’t afraid of embarrassing others with his stories. According to LaBute, he himself isn’t that kind of man, and none of his personal life sneaks into his work. The writer and director of In the Company of Men, The Shape of Things, and others creates from his imagination, choosing not to pirate from his own life or others. When we see the protagonist of Some Girl(s) doing so, it makes for an annoyingly oblivious character, but as LaBute tells us, he never sets out to annoy the audience with his conniving. The writer of Some Girl(s) was kind enough to speak with us at great length about those uncomfortable stories he’s famous for, how The Wickerman isn’t based on his life, and more about his process:

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It’s back to the Big Apple with another batch of some of the most compelling titles that this year’s Tribeca Film Festival has to offer. This time around, we’re zinging over to Thailand for an eye-opening spin on the crime noir (no other film this year will make you want to invest in a helmet more), before zipping back to the U S of A and over to the left coast for two films about life in Los Angeles, relationships on the rocks, and cinematic twists that both surprise and sustain. Which one of these films marks the voice of an exciting new independent director and which will leave audiences begging for more, of all things, gimmicky behavior? As is the best part of all film festivals, let’s discover something new. Check out our latest batch of mini-reviews for Headshot, Caroline and Jackie, and Double or Nothing after the break.

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Just on the heels of the announcement that Kristen Bell had signed on to be the first of Adam Brody’s many ex-girlfriends in Some Girls, THR has a report that a whole bevy of additional actresses have come out of the woodwork to fill out the ranks of Brody’s former flames. You see, Some Girls is an adaptation of a Neil LaBute play about a young writer who is looking to take stock of his past romantic entanglements and gain closure with each of his exes before he moves forward in his life and marries his current fiancée. Bell is said to be playing a character named Bobbi, a whip-smart little lady who Brody’s character walked away from without so much as a word. And with this new casting announcement, it’s looking like the Jennifer Getzinger-directed film version of this story will be including four other girls that have a bone to pick with the reflective protagonist as well. The biggest name of the bunch is Emily Watson, who will be playing a married woman named Lindsay who Brody’s character had an affair with. Watson has had a whole bunch of great roles before this, but she’s probably best known for her Oscar nominated performances in Breaking the Waves and Hilary and Jackie. To say that she adds some pedigree to this production would be something of an understatement.

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A couple months ago it was reported that The OC’s Adam Brody was attached to star in an adaptation of a Neil LaBute play called Some Girls. To be helmed by Mad Men and Flight of the Conchords director Jennifer Getzinger, and shot from a screenplay by LaBute himself, Some Girls is one of those naval-gazing relationship stories about a character taking stock of their romantic history. In this case, said character is a writer who feels like he has to get closure with his ex-girlfriends before he can enter into a marriage with his current fiancée. That means flying all across the country to track these girls down and get a little of the old face-to-face. And, for this movie, it means a need to cast a gaggle of young actresses. So far, Getzinger and company seem to be off to a good start. THR reports that the first female member of the Some Girls cast has been signed, and it’s none other than Veronica Mars’ Kristen Bell. Reportedly, Bell will be playing a character named Bobbi, a super-smart girl that Brody’s character walked out on years earlier without a word. Predictably, she doesn’t have a very high opinion of him these days.

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Over the past decade, Adam Brody has carved out a nice little career while no one was looking. His future carvings include Whit Stillman’s Damsels in Distress with Greta Gerwig as well as Seeking a Friend for the End of the World, which made our Most Anticipated of 2012. Not bad at all. Now, according to Variety, Brody is set to star in a film adaptation of the Neil LaBute play “Some Girls.” The story focuses on a guy named Guy (how’s that for gender politics?) who sets out to talk to the most important exes in his life before getting married. It’s prime LaBute territory, and with the prolific playwright behind the pen for the script, it promises to be as grueling and affectingly human as the rest of his work. In that sense, it might be a trial by fire for Brody, who’s proven himself to be capable (and to be one of the best things about Thank You For Smoking), but hasn’t proven that he has what it takes to be truly great. This might be that crucible. And leading the firing squad is director Jennifer Getzinger – the veteran script supervisor who’s directed episode of The Big C, Flight of the Conchords and Mad Men.

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It’s no secret that Agatha Christie is the best mystery writer of all time, especially when the deaths involve British people being incredibly polite and understanding about the whole thing. There are several of her books that still need big screen adaptations, and it looks like Gosford Park screenwriter Julian Fellowes will be taking on one of them. According to Cinema Blend, Fellowes will be penning the script for Crooked House, which tells the story of a man who is told he can’t marry his fiancee until her grandfather’s murder is solved. Death at a Funeral director Neil LaBute will be helming the project. This is fantastic beyond words. Christie’s work has been relegated to better-than-average television movies on BBC for far too long, and it’s time that her twists and turns got a bigger stage to play on. Plus, it’s another excuse to go watch Murder By Death for a 15th time.

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At the press conference for Battle: Los Angeles I had one goal in mind: to ask Aaron Eckhart, “When are we going to see In The Company of Men 2?” Yes, obviously it was a completely joking question. If you’ve seen In The Company of Men then you most likely know it’s not exactly something you’d think of having sequel potential. Eckhart and director Neil Labute disagree.

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A free-wheeling photographer finally wants to settle down with a Swedish pixie dream girl, and even thought neither of them might be ready for the responsibility, they get pregnant. Over the course of nine months, the full spectrum of relationship drama plays out as well as the back stories for the major characters, culminating in the birth of the young human being these two have brought into the world.

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This week, Fat Guy Kevin Carr kicks ass with Kick-Ass and laughs it up at Death at a Funeral

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Death at a Funeral

It’s a funny thing about remakes. For the most part, they are done for the wrong reasons and done with a lack of creativity. It’s something that concerns every movie fan when they hear the word. However, when you do it right, you deserve some praise. And this movie deserves some praise.

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Robert Levin takes aim at the popular hobby of hating Nic Cage and asks that we appreciate great trash.

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There’s something to be said about remakes, I know. And over the course of the nearly 4-year existence of Film School Rejects, we’ve said a lot about them. And with this one, there seems to be a lot to say…

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Samuel L Jackson in Lakeview Terrace

Lakeview Terrace is meant to be a taut thriller. However, the script violates a cardinal rule… it has the characters act unrelentlessly stupid in order to force a conflict. By the end, I really didn’t care about any of them.

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published: 04.16.2014
C-
published: 04.16.2014
B-
published: 04.14.2014
B
published: 04.14.2014
A-

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