SOME VELVET MORNING
Suitcase in tow, Fred (Stanley Tucci) arrives at the doorstep of his beautiful mistress, Velvet (Alice Ve) after four years apart, claiming to have finally left his wife. But when she rejects his attempts to rekindle their romance, his persistence evolves into obsession and a dark history between the former lovers comes into focus.
Review by Louise Keller:
A mesmerising two-hander from the provocative pen of Neil LaBute, in which the past, the present and the future collide with maximum bite, offers a superlative platform for Stanley Tucci and Alice Eve. Beyond its themes of love and sex, it's about control and the games people play as attraction changes, violence overtakes tenderness and compassion and cruelty become strange bedfellows. If you saw LaBute's unforgettable first film 'In the Company of Men' (1997) as the boundaries of human behaviour are manipulated into uncomfortable areas, you will not be surprised by anything that happens in this new work. It's a tantalising walk on the dark side and LaBute is the ultimate manipulator: I was enthralled, repulsed and intrigued, often feeling like a voyeur peering into a labyrinth of intimacies.
The film begins when Velvet (Eve), wearing a symbolic scarlet dress answers the door of her elegant two-storey New York home. Fred (Tucci) stands at the door, suitcases in hand, with the words: "Hi, I'm here; it's me; Fred; I'm here with all my stuff." The beautifully scripted screenplay offers just enough information for us to progressively get to know the characters and learn their history. Fred's nervousness turns to aggression and sexual innuendos begin. Four years have passed since their relationship ended and now with Fred declaring he has finally left his wife, it is clear he expects to be welcomed back with open arms. But that is not the case. 'Did you ever read Lolita? It ends badly' Fred says, referring to their age difference. Fred expertly pushes Velvet's buttons and the initial neutral vibes quickly turn sour. We become fascinated about how they met. Fred's irritation and jealousy is exacerbated by the fact that Velvet occasionally meets Fred's married son Chris for lunch - 'and other things'. We also wonder about Velvet's comfortable lifestyle and how she can afford it.
This is a wonderful role for Tucci, whose character is on edge the whole time. He is gruff and demanding; we are never sure whether he will kiss or kill Velvet - such is the uncertainty and underlying passion. Eve, with her pronounced English accent and reserve goes from intimidated victim to empowered sex goddess. She is - and looks - fabulous. 'The lesson is in the struggle,' Fred states as he spits out the truth about the past and his feelings.
With minimum fuss, the narrative holds by the sheer power of the script and the dynamic between the two actors. LaBute is expert at pulling the rug from under our feet and the shock ending is a revelation, as everything we have heard before is seen in a new context. An extraordinary piece of cinema.
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SOME VELVET MORNING (MA15+)
CAST: Stanley Tucci, Alice Eve
PRODUCER: Michael Corrente, Daryl Freimark, Tim Harms, Trent Othick, David Zander
DIRECTOR: Neil LaBute
SCRIPT: Neil LaBute
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Rogier Stoffers
EDITOR: Joel Plotch
MUSIC: Not credited
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Neil Patel
RUNNING TIME: 88 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Umbrella
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: July 31, 2014