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‘Some Velvet Morning’: Provocative words from Neil LaBute

Alice Eve Stanley Tucci 'Some Velvet Morning.'

Alice Eve and Stanley Tucci in "Some Velvet Morning."

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Velvet Alice Eve

Fred Stanley Tucci

Tribeca Film presents a film written and directed by Neil LaBute. Running time: 83 minutes. No MPAA rating. Opens Friday at Facets Cinematheque.

Updated: December 20, 2013 10:53AM

I don’t want to say too much about “Some Velvet Morning.” Neil LaBute’s latest comment on the battle of the sexes plays out in surprising ways that toy with the viewer’s perceptions, and to give away too much would ruin the experience — one that you may or may not like.

LaBute, an accomplished playwright, creates a dialogue-heavy screenplay that definitely feels like a play on film. It consists of one long conversation as two characters — a man and a woman with a shared past — prowl around each other fiercely slinging words as weapons (shades of “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf”).

Stanley Tucci plays Fred, a lawyer who has left his wife of 24 years and shows up on the doorstep (the action never leaves the well-appointed Brooklyn brownstone) of Velvet (Alice Eve), a woman he had an affair with some time ago and has obsessed over ever since. Now he wants to pick up where they left off.

Velvet, a cool, icy blonde (echoes of Hitchcock here), is surprised at the invasion and seemingly not interested, having since moved on with her life. Threatening to complicate matters is her (innocent?) relationship with Fred’s married son.

(The film’s title comes from a sexually suggestive 1976 song written by Lee Hazelwood and performed as a duet with Nancy Sinatra.)

Tucci and Eve play well off each other, especially when they are slinging ugly revelations back and forth. As the layers of their edgy history are slowly peeled back Fred is shown in many different lights (thanks to Tucci’s formidable talent) and Velvet (a capable and engaging Eve), seemingly a victim, brandishes words and a quick wit with stinging accuracy.

With “Some Velvet Morning,” LaBute returns to the provocative style that made his name. Fans of “The Shape of Things” and “In the Company of Men” will know exactly where LaBute is headed, and the stunning final scene will seem right in place. Others not in the know may simply feel frustrated and manipulated by LaBute’s incendiary way with words.

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