Main cast: Catherine Keener (Terri), Ben Stiller (Jerry), Jason Patric (Cary), Amy Brenneman (Mary), Aaron Eckhart (Barry), and Nastassja Kinski (Cheri)
Director: Neil LaBute
Ooh, how cute, everyone’s name ends with a “ry”. That’s the only cute factor that won’t make me squirm in discomfort in this very naughty, very unpolitically correct piece of work. It’s not as ruthless in making me squirm like LaBute’s In the Company Of Men (which is horrifyingly cruel), but it is still a disturbing piece of delicious sardony.
And I thought living with my noisy neighbors are bad. Oh boy, what do I know? Meet the bored thirty-somethings in this movie who is enough to drive anyone into voluntary misanthropy. Cary is a medical officer whose world revolves around his Mr Bobbitt and he spends his life with women who allow him to run roughshod over them with his misogyny. He brags about his conquests and revenge fucks on a bossy female superior with friends Jerry and Barry.
Jerry is a slimy drama teacher who sleeps with any female students he could get his hands on, all the while living with Terri. Terri is cold and emotionless, who tells Mary that when she wants to fuck, please – fuck and nothing else. Certainly not Jerry’s coital babblings which earned him a scream of “Shut the fuck up!” in the middle of the rumpy-pumpy.
Frustrated, Terri embarks on a lesbian affair with insecure Cheri.
Into the midst of dysfunction comes Mary, Barry’s sexually frustrated wife who eventually embarks on an affair with Jerry. Barry is always never on time, so to speak, premature or never at all, and he has to pleasure himself to feel any satisfaction.
If these are my friends, I’ll move. To another continent.
But Your Friends & Neighbors is also a startlingly brilliant piece of movie whose shock factor has plenty of sense and intelligence behind it. Also, Jason Patric’s Cary, while treating his women like dirt, oozes raw virility that it is easy to see why women who should know better succumbs to him. Ben Stiller’s Jerry is slimy yet charming, a dandy who hides his snake-like ruthlessness well.
The vulgar (very vulgar) yet acerbically witty lines have me gasping and laughing. And underneath the coldness, there is a lot of uncertainty. These people are actually out of their depths, but they don’t know it. There’s a quiet yet shocking scene where Cary describes his best sexual experience, and believe me, that one is shocking, but the camera pans in on his face when he describes it, and I can’t help to glimpse a man who is so lonely that he keeps searching solace in sex. He can’t find what he is looking for, and he hates his partners for it. Jerry too is a man whose usage of women is due to his chronic insecurity, elevated by his inability to satisfy Terri sexually. When Terri seeks the arms of a woman, he feels utterly castrated.
Likewise, Terri is a woman whose loneliness drives her to search for silence. Intimacy is only a means for her to lose herself in solitude in the aftermath. Barry couldn’t find any way to relieve his frustration, but most moving is Mary, a housewife who is way out of her depths. She is not cut out for the ruthless sexual musical chairs her buddies are playing, and in the end, she ends up demeaning herself. And Cheri? She too is doomed to unhappiness, for Terri would never let anyone intrude on her peaceful silence.
These people are all in a futility cycle, and even to the end, they are trapped in their loneliness. It’s sad. Underneath all the cool misogyny and sexual escapades, everyone’s lonely. And this movie drives home that bittersweet message accurately indeed.