Some Girl(s)

Seen at the 2013 SXSW Film Festival.

Some Girl(s), adapted by Neil LaBute from his play, is a nice illustration of what you can get away with on stage but can’t on screen. A good-looking guy, age 30 or so, arrives in Seattle and checks into a hotel. He summons his high school girlfriend, who comes to see him. Why did he ask her to come? Well, he feels a little badly about the way things ended, over 10 years ago, and wants to make sure that the two of them are “okay.” He broke up with her, she reminds him. Why did he do that? Well, he looked at her and thought he could see her pathetic hometown future, he tells her point blank, and he didn’t want that for himself. And look, he says – I was right! You’re still here with your stupid kids and you’re married to a guy who wears an apron to his job managing a grocery store! Don’t you understand? We’re okay, aren’t we?

The notion that someone could casually say such hurtful, terrible things to someone and then carry on the conversation without at the very least being called out as an asshole – not to mention immediately and permanently losing all audience sympathy – is peculiarly theatrical, I think. The medium has a tradition of stylized hostility that lets playwrights get away with that sort of harshness without even remarking upon it. On film, it’s a complete bust: Who is this guy? Why the fuck is he being such a douchebag?

In fact, the whole premise of Some Girl(s) doesn’t really fly on the screen:  In the run-up to his wedding, the unnamed protagonist (Adam Brody) is flying around the country meeting ex-girlfriends in hotel rooms and trying to apologize for wrongs of varying severity. Who would do this? At best, it’s the plot of an outlandish screwball comedy, a few steps removed from What’s Your Number? starring Anna Faris. The screenplay hints, quasi-poignantly, that he feels an uncertain sense of guilt and is going through a checklist in the hopes of making amends with the person who’s making him feel uneasy. But come on. No sane person would fly around the country arranging apology meetings with exes. Again, this is the sort of high concept that gets taken more seriously in theater.

There are, to be fair, other reasons eventually given for why he’s doing his apology tour, but they are if anything even more cartoonishly absurd. LaBute is one of the best living chroniclers of men behaving badly, and Some Girl(s) has some interesting things to say about how blithely people can do damage to others, and the limits of apology. But the way it plays bears so little resemblance to actual human behavior or thought process that it lost me almost immediately and never got me back. Maybe I’d feel differently about the play.

Eugene Novikov

Seeking in movies meaning and reflection in real-time. On the look out for biography, thriller & drama best pieces.

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