Your Friends And Neighbors (1998): Written and Directed by: Neil LaBute Budget: 5 million(estimated) Domestic Gross: $4 710 749
Nurse Betty (2000): Writer: John C. Richards(story) John C. Richards & James Flamberg(screenplay) Director: Neil LaBute Budget: 24 million(estimated) Domestic Gross: $25 167 270
The Shape Of Things (2003): Written and Directed by: Neil LaBute(based on his play) Budget: 4 million(estimated) Domestic Gross: $732 241
neil labute has made 6 films so far. none of them have been hits and only two of them have made more at the domestic box office then what they cost to make. and yet i would go so far as to say that he is definitely among the better directors working today.
only two have been successful money-wise, but four of them are really good films that shouldn't be forgotten - actually i have to admit i haven't seen his version of The Wicker Man that came out earlier this year, but i have seen every other film he has made and except for the disappointing Possessions (gwyneth paltrow & aaron eckhart) they are all worth mentioning here. going in order of release...
In The Company Of Men is a dark, disturbing film about two men who decide to get revenge on the female sex. to do so, the decide to both date the same vulnerable women until she falls for them, and then they will both dump her. this was his first and most successful film (if you look at the amount it made compared to what it cost) and it made a big splash at sundance where it premiered. this is a very independent film made for hardly any money, but the performances are strong and labute's script takes center stage.
labute probably could have gone for something light and easy and mainstream after the critical success of In The Company Of Men, but the tag-line to his next film, Your Friends And Neighbors is all you need to read to know he didn't: "a modern immorality tale". sex, cheating, relationships and lies are all to be found in this tale. starring ben stiller, catherine keener, jason patric and others this film is another darkish take on the relationship between the sexes. aaron eckhart is in the film as well as in labute's next two projects (three if you count the short film Tumble).
Nurse Betty was his first "mainstream film" and i put that in quotes because he made it the way only neil labute could. renee zellweger plays a women (betty) obsessed with a character on a soap opera (greg kinnear) who suffers from post-traumatic stress after witnessing the murder of her husband. this trauma causes her to head off to hollywood to meet the soap star who she believes to be a real person (not an actor). morgan freeman and chris rock play hitmen after betty and the car she is in which contains 10 kilos of cocaine. the film could have easily been hollywood shlock, but labute brings his dark comic quirkiness to the project and makes it a film that goes beyond the expectations of the genre. sure, it is more accessible then his first two films but it does this without ever compromising his artistic integrity. the film even won zellweger a very well deserved golden globe award for her great performance
labute went off track with his 2002 film Possessions which i didn't like at all. however, he came right back the next year with the really good, but little seen, The Shape Of Things. paul rudd play, adam, a guy who falls for the sexy art student, rachel weisz who begins to change him. at first it is in little ways, but then as the story progresses it is in more twisted and influential ways. based on his own play, the Shape Of Things finds labute back in his dark comfort zone dealing with human relationships. in this case the "dark" is less obvious then in lets say, Your Friends And Neighbors, however, when the movie ends you will know exactly what i mean. the film feels like a quirky, fun comedy, and at times that is just what it is, but it is also more then that.
the 90's brought us a talented crop of young film makers not seen since the 1970's and the likes of scorsese, spielberg, friedkin, lumet, coppola and lucas. labute is one of that crop as well as one of the most under appreciated and little known to the general film going public. here at FBNF i hope to do my part to change that