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The Shape of Flings

Some Velvet Morning (2013)

Rogier Stoffers/2013 Tribeca Film Festival

After working as a director-for-hire on a couple of Hollywood productions, Neil LaBute is back to the playwright-turned-filmmaker niche he carved out for himself 16 years ago with “In the Company of Men.” A two-player chamber piece, “Some Velvet Morning” is indeed very theatrical — perhaps more so than all eight of his previous film efforts. In what some – though perhaps not all – will find a welcome move, he’s returning to the provocative and foul battle-of-the-sexes arena that is his wheelhouse.

Stanley Tucci plays Fred, who stops by his ex-mistress Velvet’s (Alice Eve) brownstone unannounced with luggage in tow. Apparently they broke up a while ago but he’s never quite gotten over her, so now he’s finally left his wife and his former life behind for good. But Velvet is less than thrilled to see Fred. During their time apart, he’s had a hard time leaving her alone as she asked. She’s also moved on with her life. In fact, his surprise visit is keeping her from a lunch date with his son, Chris, who had introduced them in the first place when he brought her home to meet the parents.

Given that this is a Neil LaBute picture, the proceedings predictably go downhill quick. It gets as unpleasant as we’ve come to expect from him as a dramatist. It’s impossible to engage the film fully without spoiling a couple of shocking late developments, one of which will have you wondering if Mr. LaBute has in fact mellowed with age. Certainly, he has improved a lot as a filmmaker, since the film has none of the staginess of his early oeuvre. Some might view the end as a cruel prank at the expense of moviegoers while others might consider it a cop-out, but perhaps the point of it all is that we should not rush to judgment when it comes to Mr. LaBute’s theater of cruelty.


Opens on Dec. 13 in Manhattan.

Written and directed by Neil LaBute; director of photography, Rogier Stoffers; edited by Joel Plotch; production design by Neil Patel; costumes by Katherine Roth; produced by Tim Harms, Daryl Freimark, David Zander, Trent Othick and Michael Corrente; released by Tribeca Film. Running time: 1 hour 23 minutes. This film is not rated.

WITH: Stanley Tucci (Fred) and Alice Eve (Velvet).


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