An unexpected reunion between a middle-aged man (Tucci) and his former mistress (Eve) unfolds in real time.
Before seemingly cashing in all his indie cred for the sake of pat mainstream fare (Lakeview Terrace, Death At A Funeral) and one legendarily misguided remake (The Wicker Man), playwright Neil LaBute had crossed over to the screen with his reliably acerbic takes on adult relationships (In The Company Of Men, The Shape Of Things). Thankfully, he has returned to his stage roots with Some Velvet Morning, a single-setting two-hander defined first and foremost by its gender politics and later on by its twists and turns, so we shall tread lightly.
It has been four years since Fred (Stanley Tucci) and Velvet (Alice Eve) last dallied with one another, and now Fred has arrived unannounced on the doorstep of Velvet’s Brooklyn brownstone. He’s finally left his wife for her; it’s a shame, then, that she is still dating his (recently married) son. From there, a series of semantic detours and shifts in power arise in true LaBute fashion, as we learn about what Fred did and what Velvet does before witnessing a real-time tug of war between the woman he cannot live without and the man she cannot stand.
The camera hovers over and lingers between the two characters, often isolating them in doorways and on staircases before clinging as they do to one another, and in doing so generally alleviates the potential staginess of these spare proceedings. Tucci proves himself ever the fearless performer, nimbly weaving between Fred’s alternately persuasive and obsessive tendencies, capturing the weariness of his age while conveying the impulsiveness by which he operates. Eve leaves an even stronger impression, given her recent standing as Hollywood’s eye candy of the moment in blockbusters and rom-coms alike. Though the actress is a native Brit, her character affects an especially posh accent as if it were an extension of Velvet’s immaculate sense of interior design, with her composed exterior growing shakier the longer that Fred lingers.
The duo discusses love and other illusions to the extent that a recurring fixation on getting one’s kicks for cash reflects as much on an audience’s desire to watch other lovers break up and make up (or worse) as it does on a creator’s need to accept the studio gigs that pay every once in a while. The ending first shocks, then genuinely surprises, delivering the cruelty that we’ve come to expect from LaBute in an inspired way. Frankly, it would be disappointing if he hadn’t hurt our feelings.
Like LaButes best work, this tense drama is not for all tastes, but anyone game to watch two effortlessly volatile and vulnerable performers trade barbs for 83 minutes ought to give this due consideration.