12/11/2013 08:37 pm ET Updated Feb 10, 2014

Popcorn Preview: Some Velvet Morning

Some Velvet Morning (2013)
Stanley Tucci (The Hunger Games), Alice Eve (Star Trek Into Darkness)
Writer/Director: Neil LaBute (In the Company of Men, The Shape of Things)
Drama | Romance (82 minutes)

Before things become clear, we see the simple red dress... the only spot of color in a stylishly monochrome world. Ding-dong. The doorbell has the effect of bringing things into focus. Now we see that the gorgeous blond in the red dress was enjoying music, but now she has to go answer the door. "Can I come in?" (No answer) "I'm here with all my stuff... you can tell me to go..." She finally answers... "So your plane was delayed?" "No, I'm here to see you," he says. They exchange an uncomfortable hug. "It's a lot of stuff you've got." She doesn't sound pleased. Apparently he just grabbed what he could while Miriam was out... "24 years and that's how it ends." Does Chris know? Ouch. That touches a nerve. Based on snippets of conversation, we soon figure out that Velvet was originally seeing Chris, Fred's son. But she put a note in Fred's pocket, and it lead to an affair that didn't end well. Now Fred has shown up on her doorstep here in London... all the way from Maryland... with all his stuff.

"You're keeping me on edge... you keep checking your watch," he says. "Well, it was a surprise," she says. "A good one, I hope." He really does hope she's at least a little bit happy to see him. She says she is, but it doesn't seem convincing. She's supposed to be somewhere, and now Fred's making her late. Oh great... the day he shows up, she's going out. "You don't really have a proper..." He shouldn't have said that. "We can't all be lawyers," she answers. Obviously, he's referring to her profession as a prostitute. He once thought they were in love. Now he's wondering if it was just business.

As Fred and Velvet's tense, twisted exchange plays out, it alternates between love, resentment, attraction, repulsion, closeness and distance. We don't know exactly why Velvet asked Fred to stay away, but she's about to throw him out again... and yet... there's something going on we don't quite understand. Some Velvet Morning has two characters and feels a lot like a stage play, with the whole narrative playing out as one uncomfortable conversation. It's wonderfully acted and constructed. At times it may bristle the fur on the back of your neck. Every time we think we know where it's going, a new layer is revealed that changes how we perceive the relationship. Some viewers won't enjoy being so much on edge for an hour and a half, but it's definitely interesting. (I'd use a different adjective, but don't want to give too much away.) Fred is being "such a bastard, it's breathtaking," but for some reason Velvet keep's apologizing. "You said 'sorry' before. Now it just sounds repetitive." And Fred is beginning to sound unhinged.

3 popped kernels (Scale: 0-4)
A former lover leaves his wife and shows up unannounced with all his stuff

Popcorn Profile
Audience: Grown-ups
Distribution: Art house
Mood: Sober
Tempo: In no hurry
Visual Style: Nicely varnished realism
Nutshell: Dysfunctional relationship
Language: True to life
Social Significance: Thought provoking

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