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Some Girl(s) (***)

A strong cast lifts this latest adaptation of a Neil LaBute play…

some_girlsAdam Brody takes a rare leading man role and runs with it in the Neil LaBute penned dramedy Some Girl(s). Though LaBute didn’t direct this adaptation of his own play, it looks, feels, and sounds (obviously) like one of his early works, which I mean as a definite compliment. Despite going in some very odd directions of late (before apparently returning to form somewhat recently with Some Velvet Morning), LaBute hasn’t really continued with the vibes he put forth in movies like In the Company of Men and The Shape of Things. That being said, despite only writing this flick and not directing it, this is very much in that early wheelhouse. Armed with Brody playing off of his likable image, director Daisy von Scherler Mayer does her best LaBute impression and the results are pretty good. The film does suffer from some occasional staginess, but Brody and his costars, which include Kristen Bell, Zoe Kazan, Jennifer Morrison, and Emily Watson are having a great time with this stylized dialogue and quirkiness of the story. This is an odd spin on a sort of relationship movie that’s been seen many times before, and I was very pleased with the end result.

We follow “Man” (Brody, playing a role with a name) as he meets with all of his ex-lovers (only some of whom were official girlfriends) while on a cross country trip back and forth between Seattle and Boston in the days leading up to his wedding. He’s a successful writer and apparently doing pretty well for himself, but he’s got these women on his mind. First up is his high school sweetheart Sam (Jennifer Morrison), then sexually open minded ex Tyler (Mia Maestro), then his married older college professor Lindsay (Emily Watson), followed by his best friend’s little sister Reggie (Zoe Kazan), and then finally the girl he considers to be the one that got away, Bobbi (Kristen Bell). He initially comes to each of them trying to make amends for the minor transgressions he made in their relationships, but they all have some deeper issues they’d like to take up with him. As he goes from one to the other, you learn a little bit more about just who this dude is, and most of the time you easily think less of him. By the time he’s done with Reggie and on to Bobbi, that’s all the more clear. At the end of the film, he’s got plenty in common with many of LaBute’s other male protagonists, and possibly more in common with you than you’d like to admit…

review-some-girls-e1362705059877I’m not sure anyone would initially peg Adam Brody for this role, but he tackles it head on and absolutely owns the screen. He creates this charismatic narcissist that slowly but surely worms his way into your heart before disgusting you. Brody turned out to be perfect for this role and turns in what I think is his best performance to date. As good as he is, Zoe Kazan nearly matches him with her short turn as a girl with perhaps the most legitimate beef against him. Kazan is always good, but she steals her scene completely. Kristen Bell also impressed me, while Emily Watson and Jennifer Morrison are the normal and reliable selves. Mia Maestro was a bit underwhelming, but I think that’s just in comparison to the rest. Watson and Morrison are good, Bell is very good, while Kazan is great and Brody is terrific, so Maestro only being solid leads to that. They’re pretty much the entire cast, so they needed to be this high quality, and they were. Brody has solid chemistry with each other them, leading each scene to make you almost with they all had their own films.

Director Daisy von Scherler Mayer keeps it very simple here, translating scribe Neil LaBute’s play to the screen as intact as possible. Her direction is very low key and would have risked being too stagey if not for the strong screenplay that LaBute turns in and the great work from the cast. She certainly deserves credit for that, but this really feels like a team effort from LaBute. The only real directorial blunder I found where the scenes of Brody traveling, as they’re set to music that just feels out of place for the material. Other than that, this is mostly a showcase for the actors and LaBute’s dialogue.

I’m not sure what kind of audience will appreciate Some Girl(s), but I know that I really did like it, even if you don’t exactly leave feeling too good about yourself. Adam Brody is worth the price of admission alone, but when you get someone like Zoe Kazan owning a supporting performance too, this becomes something easy to recommend. An actor’s showcase as well as a masterclass in writing from Neil LaBute, I definitely hope some of you seek this one out. You’ll be surprised by what you find…

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Written by Joey Magidson

When he’s not obsessing over new Oscar predictions on a weekly basis, Joey is seeing between 300 and 350 movies a year. He views the best in order to properly analyze the awards race/season each year, but he also watches the worst for reasons he mostly sums up as "so you all don't have to". In his spare time, you can usually find him complaining about the Jets or the Mets. Still, he lives and dies by film. Joey's a voting member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association.

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