Click to Skip Ad
Closing in...
Ranking the 5 Best Editing Oscar Nominees Ranking the 5 Best Editing Oscar Nominees Kristen Stewart Is First American Actress Nominated for César Awards in 30 Years; 'Saint Laurent' Leads with Ten Kristen Stewart Is First American Actress Nominated for César Awards in 30 Years; 'Saint Laurent' Leads with Ten How They Sustained the Times Square Momentum in 'Birdman' VIDEO How They Sustained the Times Square Momentum in 'Birdman' VIDEO 6 Things to Know About Sexy Sundance Breakout 'Diary of a Teenage Girl,' Part of Sundance's Women's New Wave 6 Things to Know About Sexy Sundance Breakout 'Diary of a Teenage Girl,' Part of Sundance's Women's New Wave Sundance Raves About Ewan McGregor as Jesus and the Devil in 'Last Days in the Desert' Sundance Raves About Ewan McGregor as Jesus and the Devil in 'Last Days in the Desert' Oscar Loves Diseases and Disorders: 6 Contenders and the Hard Truths They Don't (or Do) Ignore Oscar Loves Diseases and Disorders: 6 Contenders and the Hard Truths They Don't (or Do) Ignore Watch: Jason Segel on Playing David Foster Wallace in Sundance's 'End of the Tour' (Exclusive Interview) Watch: Jason Segel on Playing David Foster Wallace in Sundance's 'End of the Tour' (Exclusive Interview) Filmmakers, Give Us Your Numbers! Sundance and Cinereach Unveil The Transparency Project Filmmakers, Give Us Your Numbers! Sundance and Cinereach Unveil The Transparency Project Sundance Market Explodes with 'Me and Earl and the Dying Girl' and 'Diary of a Teenage Girl' Sundance Market Explodes with 'Me and Earl and the Dying Girl' and 'Diary of a Teenage Girl' Screen Actors Guild Awards: 'Birdman' Takes Ensemble, Julianne Moore and Eddie Redmayne Win Leads Screen Actors Guild Awards: 'Birdman' Takes Ensemble, Julianne Moore and Eddie Redmayne Win Leads Top Ten Takeaways: Polarizing 'American Sniper' Speeds Past $200 Million; Lopez Trounces Depp Top Ten Takeaways: Polarizing 'American Sniper' Speeds Past $200 Million; Lopez Trounces Depp Arthouse Audit: Panic Time? 'Mommy,' 'Red Army,' 'Black Sea,' 'Cake,' 'Duke of Burgundy' All Disappoint Arthouse Audit: Panic Time? 'Mommy,' 'Red Army,' 'Black Sea,' 'Cake,' 'Duke of Burgundy' All Disappoint 2015 PGA Winners: 'Birdman' Steals 'Boyhood''s Awards Season Thunder 2015 PGA Winners: 'Birdman' Steals 'Boyhood''s Awards Season Thunder Watch: Nicole Kidman Talks 'Strangerland' at Sundance (Exclusive Video Interview) Watch: Nicole Kidman Talks 'Strangerland' at Sundance (Exclusive Video Interview) Sundance Acquisitions Market Heats Up with 'The Bronze' and 
'The Witch' Sundance Acquisitions Market Heats Up with 'The Bronze' and 'The Witch' Sundance: 5 Things to Expect From Alex Gibney's Damning Scientology Doc 'Going Clear' Sundance: 5 Things to Expect From Alex Gibney's Damning Scientology Doc 'Going Clear' Watch: Meet the Women of 'Birdman' (Exclusive 4-Minute Featurette) Watch: Meet the Women of 'Birdman' (Exclusive 4-Minute Featurette) Watch: Hitchcock's Thwarted Holocaust Documentary Comes to HBO Watch: Hitchcock's Thwarted Holocaust Documentary Comes to HBO Best Actor Oscar Predictions 2015 UPDATED Best Actor Oscar Predictions 2015 UPDATED Oscar Predictions 2015 Oscar Predictions 2015

NOFF Review: In Neil LaBute's 'Some Velvet Morning,' Sex on a Slow Boil (VIDEO)

Photo of Matt Brennan By Matt Brennan | Thompson on Hollywood! October 19, 2013 at 3:29PM

Stanley Tucci doesn't receive nearly enough credit for being sexy as hell. Unconventionally handsome, a craftsman of the second fiddle, he's the thinking man's fantasy of middle age. But in Neil LaBute's surprising two-hander "Some Velvet Morning," the allure is twisted, and Tucci elicits another variety of attraction: the hint of menace.
0
Alice Eve and Stanley Tucci in Neil LaBute's "Some Velvet Morning"
Alice Eve and Stanley Tucci in Neil LaBute's "Some Velvet Morning"

Stanley Tucci doesn't receive nearly enough credit for being sexy as hell. Unconventionally handsome, a craftsman of the second fiddle, he's the thinking man's fantasy of middle age. But in Neil LaBute's surprising two-hander "Some Velvet Morning" (December 13) the allure is twisted, and Tucci elicits another variety of attraction: the hint of menace.

From the moment Fred (Tucci) appears unannounced on his old flame Velvet's (Alice Eve) Brooklyn doorstep, the actor abandons the warmth of his best-known performances ("Big Night," "The Devil Wears Prada," "Julie & Julia") for the chill of the tacit threat. A thatch of scruff shadowing his chin, the top button of his white dress shirt undone, he leans back in his seat and spreads his legs, as though it were an invitation. It's this intimation of the unsavory that propels LaBute's spare, real-time drama, and ultimately what makes it so tricky to grasp. "Some Velvet Morning" is 83 minutes of sex on a slow boil, always half way to bubbling over.

LaBute, a master of the slow reveal, allows the film to wend its way into your attention. As the relationship postmortem proceeds, each new scrap of information destabilizes what we thought we knew, until at last emerges the outlines of a doomed affair. What began with a note in his pocket, Velvet's search for clients among the fathers of her undergraduate peers, soon became a forbidden romance -- he was married, she was seeing his son -- and, on Fred's part, a dangerous infatuation. When the relationship ended she extracted from him a promise to stay away, and "Some Velvet Morning" tracks the consequences of him breaking it. 

As has been true of LaBute's work since his emergence as a playwright and filmmaker of the battle between the sexes, "Some Velvet Morning" accrues increasing evidence of the human capacity for cruelty. When Velvet asks Fred what's she done to deserve his ire, he responds with what might be considered LaBute's credo: "Shit happens to people who haven't done anything all the time." To call his brand of drama misanthropic is, perhaps, an understatement. For LaBute's villains, hatred becomes a kind of fetish: often quite literally, they get off on it.

Where "Some Velvet Morning" differs is in the distribution of power. Eve, less showy than Tucci but equally effective, plays Velvet as a canny operator, reading Fred's caprices and responding in kind. In satisfying contrast to LaBute's bleakest work ("In the Company of Men," "The Shape of Things"), both parties are in on the game, and it's in the moments that Fred's crass, aggressive demands come up against Velvet's dissembling, half-finished sentences that the film is most fully alive.

For once there are no dupes -- except, perhaps, the viewer. In quick succession "Some Velvet Morning" fulfills and then wholly upends every expectation conjured by its parry and thrust, by LaBute's filmography, by the genre itself. Whether you think the shock cheap and miserly or the imaginative mark of a newfound playfulness probably depends on your view of the director's sexual politics. Even now, with some distance, the denouement remains slippery, as strange and vaguely menacing as the relationship it transforms. But considering LaBute's recent critical and commercial struggles, I'm willing to give him the benefit of the doubt. After all, turnabout is fair play. 

"Some Velvet Morning," which premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival and recently screened at the New Orleans Film Festival, arrives on VOD December 10 and in select theaters December 13.


SOME VELVET MORNING - "China on a Dogsled" clip from some velvet morning on Vimeo.

This article is related to: Reviews, Festivals, Directors, Genres, Independents, Drama


E-Mail Updates