Some Girl(s)Reviewed By Jay Seaver
Posted 05/13/13 22:29:35
SCREENED AT THE 2013 INDEPENDENT FILM FESTIVAL BOSTON: Based upon Daisy von Scherler Mayer's film version, "Some Girl(s)" is a play with a rather tortured premise, and I suspect that actors who like a challenge are drawn to it for that. Sure, Neil LaBute gives them all the words they could want, but it's ultimately on them to make it work. It's a fairly daunting challenge, and one that may work better on stage than screen.The premise involves a writer (Adam Brody) who is about to get married flying across the country to visit a number of old girlfriends before the big day. They include high-school sweetheart Sam (Jennifer Morrison), no-strings-attached lover Tyler (Mia Maestro), one-time teacher Lindsay (Emily Watson), best friend's kid sister Reggie (Zoe Kazan), and Bobbi (Kristen Bell), who may be the one who got away. He means to make some apologies, but these things may be better off not revisited.
This is an obviously stupid idea. Well, in real life it is; for a play, it's a potentially nifty device to set up five of the sort of extended one-on-one scenes that are what that medium does best. The trouble is, once the meeting with Sam is an awkward disaster, most reasonably intelligent people would recognize it was a bad idea and give up on it; doing the same thing five times without offering any sort of explanation until the end is the sort of thing that can try an audience's patience if the individual scenes aren't riveting enough to overpower the basically silly premise. And while the explanation that does come has been foreshadowed, it's the kind of thing that feels more like a writerly quirk than something particularly telling.
And maybe it works better as an unabridged stage production, for as much as Mayer does a fair job of moving the camera around what could be tight, static environments, the theatrical roots can't help but show. There's great big gobs of dialog, with the characters playing that theatrical game where they dance around a subject, not wanting to say things they both know because that would look hacky but having to get that information to the audience somehow. LaBute, Mayer, and the cast actually do that rather well; it's the holding information back until they feel it would be most dramatically revealed that's more of an issue. The repeated references to the title are a bit cutesy, and there's also a sort of grandiosity that can seem a bit misplaced when staging the movie in actual hotel rooms (or very well-dressed sets).
Emily Watson has to deal with the brunt of it, drawing the part that requires her character to act in as weird a way as Brody's. Even ignoring what the characters do in that scene, there seems to be even more affectation than can be accounted for by their personalities. Jennifer Morrison and Mia Maestro do all right - Morrison in particular does a nice job of making Sam seem as perplexed by what's going on as the audience, even as she's getting more and more angry about it. Zoe Kazan is at times weirdly off-putting as Reggie, but it feels in-character and like recognition that she's got to supply a lot of her segment's nervous-making energy. Kristen Bell benefits a lot by having the last segment; with the opportunity to punch through the nonsense, she gets to be less mannered and more sarcastic and aggressive. It feels a lot more like someone actually talking to another person rather than reciting lines.
That makes Adam Brody the common element, and he's a weak center. Maybe he's never actually supposed to be a match for his co-stars, with the guy just there to give a reason for the girls to bring out their performances, but that doesn't always work. The character's too specific to represent all men (or even a certain class of man), but he's not interesting enough to make this project he's undertaking particularly compelling to the audience. He needs to be either more charming or horrible to give his co-stars something to push against, or for their comments on him to mean something to the audience.Not being much into the theater, I can't speak to the original play, and how faithful an adaptation Mayer's film may be. I presume the underlying work is good enough and she hews close enough to secure the the participation of both a rather nice cast for a small indie and LaBute himself, and it's easy to see the parts that have been done well. The rest is kind of a slog, though, a lot of talking around what seem like a couple fairly simple points.
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