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Your Friends And Neighbours Review

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★★★★

Some time during the 90s, a cultural phenomenon occurred to millions of young couples around the globe. They started fantasising about the perfect world advertised in the TV show Friends. The fantasy soon became a corporate juggernaut that bombarded the public with exquisite images of this peaches 'n' cream lifestyle. But writer/director Neil LaBute, creator of the controversial In The Company Of Men, has squeezed the brakes down hard with a vicious, low-budget comedy showing exactly how couples really behave with each other.

The rules of the game remain the same. Six cute-looking friends exchange secrets and desires within their pristine middle-class world. The secrets, however, are a touch more shocking. There's Jerry and Terri (Stiller and Catherine Keener) whose relationship is under threat from Jerry's incessant urge to gabble during sex. There's Barry and Mary (Eckhart and Brenneman) whose marriage is stained with her frigidity and his wanking obsession. And then there's a superb Patric as one of the most immoral, malicious lovers committed to celluloid; and Nastassja Kinski, a clingy lesbian who needs to know the exact moment her bed partners orgasm.

The problems surface in the usual places: bookstores, art galleries, bistros and supermarkets. The difference, however, is in the brutally candid script. LaBute has crafted one of the most explicit and hilarious films of the year; it's a slow-moving affair, with little camera movement and only the merest hint of a soundtrack. Yet there are scenes of such wincing honesty that could get the most blissfully happy couples niggling. It's sexual warfare, but the weapons used are infidelity, stealth and deceit. And the jokes, pruned to perfection, are designed to kill. But if you want to improve your sex life, watch this movie.