There is something consistent in any work from playwright/director Neil LaBute: his stories tend to feature adult characters who exhibit the petulence of a group of 6 year olds. They behave in an agonizingly crass way, and they usually polarize the audience. Under normal circumstances, this would usually cause audiences to avoid any of the creator’s future endeavors. Instead, for some reason, you’re drawn in by the absurdity of their actions. It’s for this reason that Some Girl(s) may be one of the best films I’ve seen this year.
We’re introduced to a young male writer referred to in the credits as “Man” (his name is never mentioned in the film), who is traveling the country visting a handful of his former flames with the intention of discovering and atoning for his ungentlemanly exits from their lives. He’s about to be married, and this exercise appears to be a form of catharsis. We begin with Sam (Jennifer Morrison), Man’s high school girlfriend who is now married with children. Her contempt for Man reveals itself when he explains that her life was so trivial, that he was able to see it play out accurately even when they were teenagers.
We then meet Tyler (Mia Maestro), a former flame who uses her sexuality as a means to distract and compromise Man’s honorable (or so it would seem) intentions. She seems indifferent to being nothing more than the one who filled a brief void in Man’s life. There’s Lindsay (Emily Watson), a married college professor who engaged in an affair with Man several years before. Their scene is antagonistic, and Lindsay gets some subtle but humiliating revenge. We meet Reggie (Zoe Kazan), the young sister of Man’s former best friend. Through innuendos and obvious revelations (she grows up to be a writer, like Brody’s character), we learn the truth about their encounter is more dense and unsettling than you would think.
Finally there’s Bobbi (Kristen Bell), a California nurse who was the “one that got away”. Bobbi holds the most emotional power over Man, and it can be assumed that Man holds the most emotional power over her. They tug and pull at each other for the sake of provoking a reaction – whether it be hurtful or heartfelt is not important. The goal is to get the truth out in the open.
It would be easy to disregard this film as mysoginistic, but Brody’s portrayal of Man is a marvelous balancing act. He can be at times narcissistic but simultaneously endearing – a feat which only a handful of actors can really accomplish. You wonder how much of this quest for solitude is self-serving, and given that Neil LaBute’s male characters are often rather selfish, that conclusion would be fair. Brody is adept at tackling aloof stereotypes of 30-something men, but this performance offers up a showcase of his range like no other performance he has given so far. Each woman serves the story differently with the tone shifting in each vignette, and Brody is up to the challenge.
The actresses in the film are wonderful, but there is an obvious standout among them. As Reggie, Zoe Kazan delivers a stark and affecting performance that shifts the absurdist atmosphere into a darker place. The character is the youngest woman in the bunch, and she uses her youth and sexuality to disarm Brody’s character. When her advances are unwelcome, we learn that their romantic past has had the most drastic effect on Reggie’s life – and Brody’s panicked Man struggles to profess his regret with frenzied worry. It’s Reggie who takes control of the situation, and it’s a masterfully written scene. Kazan is proving more and more that she is capable of serious dramatic fare, and LaBute’s words give her a chance to shine.
After the dust settles and the audience is left to ponder if Brody’s character really finds the closure he was looking for, LaBute throws in a wink in the final scene. The whole movie is hinged on the premise that Man has finally abandoned his womanizing ways in favor of monogamy, and each scene reinforces his desire to do so. Careful to maintain his juvenile depictions of men, LaBute ends the film with an interpretive reminder that the male species (in his world) are only semi-functional as human beings, stuck in a perpetual state of arrested development. It’s almost disappointing, but technically necessary to this film.
If you remove the exterior shots of hotels and other locations, the whole of the film could have been shot on a stage. It’s easy to tell that the film is based on a play, and perhaps that lends to its charm. With a top notch cast, an intelligent screenplay, and fantastic direction from Daisy von Scherler Mayer, Some Girl(s) is a solid film and another grand creation from the mind of Neil Labute.