Mr. LaBute's Neighborhood

If LaBute's latest work continues to offer insight into the company of men, Your Friends & Neighbors also finds him stretching to reach womenfolk--but without fully grasping the female world of love and ritual, which doesn't surprise Catherine Keener. "You write what you know," she observes. "As compassionate as Neil is, he's a man. Can you think of men who write from a woman's perspective?" Still, Keener does believe LaBute offers just what the feminist doctor ordered: a more realistic antidote to Hollywood love stories. "Why is it that so many movies offer this kind of lovable misogyny?" she asks. "Instead, Neil addresses [misogyny] dead-on, without any camouflage." Meanwhile, Eckhart, who earned the animosity of many a filmgoer as the monster of Men, suggests a different moral to the story: "Maybe when you're having sex from behind, you'll think twice."

LaBute directs viewers into yet another position: "You must see something of yourself in these people." As for me, I conclude that my own encounter with the filmmaker bears some resemblance to Your Friends & Neighbors' harrowing bookstore scene, wherein Patric's character breaks down a woman's sharp-tongued defenses with harsh language. In other words, while LaBute's stinging "That was for you" might barely pass for a wink instead of a whack, it does put me in my place: From then on, I defer to the man in charge by keeping the challenging questions to myself.

"Poet of the pathetic white man": Director Neil LaBute (with Ben Stiller) on the set of Your Friends & Neighbors
"Poet of the pathetic white man": Director Neil LaBute (with Ben Stiller) on the set of Your Friends & Neighbors

Your Friends & Neighbors starts Friday at the Uptown Theatre.

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