Some Velvet Morning (★★★)

some_velvet_morning_ver2Ladies and gentlemen, Neil LaBute is back. Some Velvet Morning is a dark, grim, chamber piece melodrama with some black comedy elements that has almost all of the hallmarks of the work that LaBute made a name for himself with. Now, whether or not that’s a good thing depends on who you are, but for me, this a welcome return to form for a distinctive filmmaking voice. Armed with a pair of top notch performances from Alice Eve and Stanley Tucci, LaBute focuses in on the acting and dialogue, making sure this is clearly a verbal sparring match. At the same time though, he expands this just enough so while you could clearly see it would have worked as a play, it never feels like one. The use of one house as basically a set is very well done too, as LaBute features space in an interesting way. Anyone who has been in a long argument in a home like this one (or any home really) will recognize the movements of the characters, even if you associate nothing else with them, and considering the plot…that’s probably all you should associate with them. Some Velvet Morning isn’t LaBute’s best work, but between this and the script he wrote earlier this year for Some Girl(s), it’s his best work in some time and that’s worth taking note of.

The film begins with Fred (Tucci) arriving at the home of Velvet (Eve). She used to be his mistress, but they haven’t seen each other in nearly a half decade, so when Fred shows up to say he’s left his wife, presumably to resume things with Velvet, she’s more than a little bit taken back by this news. She tries her best to let him down gentle, but he’s not taking no for an answer whatsoever, leading to a change in the dynamic. Before too long though, layers start to be revealed about the relationship that the two of them shared, and let’s just say that it’s far from a healthy one, to say the least. As things about both of their pasts are revealed, along with a bit about their present, you find yourself liking them less and less, but also more and more compelled to listen to them. Of course, that’s standard operating procedure for LaBute, but he does have a hell of an ending up his sleeve this time around. I was lukewarm on the movie for some time, but once the final minutes of the flick began and I finally saw what he was up to, everything just clicked. That’s a dangerous game to play with your audience, but LaBute is able to pull it off…

SomeVelvetMorning_FrameGrab-4This is a chamber piece with only two performances, so it’s essentially that they both be good, and lucky for everyone involved…they sure are. Stanley Tucci is always reliable so it’s no surprise to see him ace this part (though it sure is a welcome sight to see him with a lead role), but Alice Eve has been more hit and miss throughout her young career. I liked her in She’s Out of Your League, but at other points she’s underwhelmed. Here though, she’s never been better, giving Velvet great layers, while never quite revealing all. Tucci’s Fred is more cinematic and he comes close to chewing the scenery during a few of his more “loud” moments, but Eve actually turns in the harder performance. Both of them are great though, displaying strong chemistry, both romantic and combative. With no one else in the cast at all, they needed to be this good, but it’s still wonderful to see that they are.

LaBute has made this pretty much all about watching his two cast members verbally spar, but at the same time, he doesn’t just point the camera and say “action”. As mentioned above, he keeps moving to other parts of the house, which keeps things from ever getting static. This isn’t the type of direction that wins awards, but it’s very solid stuff. The writing is vintage LaBute, though for some that might not be the best thing in the world. You’re not quite sure what he’s up to until the very end, when you see his intentions and then you understand how no one else would have written it this way except for him.

Some Velvet Morning is a small film, and as such, it’s easy to forget it, but it’s got an ending that stays with you long after the movie ends. Besides watching Eve and Tucci do their thing, you also just get a flick chock full of theatrical dialogue. If that sounds good to you, then you’re in for a treat. If it sounds like torture, then maybe not. For those in the former category though, Some Velvet Morning is one to definitely seek out and watch…

Thoughts? Discuss in the comments!