Writer/director Neil LaBute clearly sees no quick-fix, happily-ever-after solution to the human condition. His debut, In The Company Of Men, had two disgruntled office workers dating, then dumping, a frail deaf girl just because they felt like lashing out at someone. It's a brand of social evil that returns in Your Friends & Neighbors, distilled and perfected in the gym-buffed form of Jason Patric. Together with a wife who cries when she's touched, a husband who prefers his own brand of self-loving, a quarrelling couple who are cheating on each other and a drippy lesbian, there's not a single character who isn't messed up and at least halfway unlikeable.
The unmistakable lo-fi nature of American indie pics is often off-putting, with endless soul-searching dialogue swamping any plot progression. But LaBute gets the balance right here, adding enough twists and turns to what's essentially a simple tale of infidelity. And even though an entire movie is set indoors, LaBute switches locations enough to make you feel he chose his settings for artistic rather than budgetary reasons.
Such character-driven pieces either live or die on the strength of the cast, and the six principals are as flawless as they are diverse. Amy Brenneman's weepy wife clashes brilliantly with husband Aaron Eckhart, who simply can't understand why she's not sexually aroused by his overweight, flaccid form. And Ben Stiller fails to see why his bed-time monologues turn off girlfriend Catherine Keener. But it's Jason Patric who steals the show, with tales of date-rapes and work-related "revenge fucks". Where else have you seen a man who records his sexual patter and then plays it back on a Walkman? He's a mesmerisingly vile individual.
Oddly, he's the only character who appears to be enjoying what he's doing. LaBute's message - - that the bad prosper while the good stumble - - has now appeared in two extremely incisive movies. For the good of the film-viewing public, let's hope he doesn't cheer up.