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IFFBoston ’13 Review: Some Girl(s)

“Some Girl(s),” adapted by Neil LaBute from his stage play of the same name, is a film from director Daisy von Scherler Mayer starring Adam Brody. The film tells the story of a unnamed man (for the purposes of this review, referred to as “Guy”) as he travels across the US visiting women from his past.

Guy (Brody) lands first in Seattle, checks into a hotel and is joined by Sam (Jennifer Morrison), a girlfriend from high school. They start chatting about the past, and Guy asks about the effect their break up of over a decade ago has had on her. Sam is taken aback and old wounds quickly reopen. Guy eventually reveals that he’s getting married and is going from city to city trying to set things right with previous lovers.

The film features some great female talent: Emily Watson and Zoe Kazan particularly stood out – their successful somegirls-emmawatsonperformances may have been due in part to the content of their roles, but regardless, they acted circles around Brody. From my understanding of the production, LaBute was strongly involved in the making of the film and every pause, beat, and breath written into the original script were kept intact in the film. Emily Watson, an experienced stage and screen, was able to navigate the specific cadences of LaBute’s text while maintaining the more natural flow typically used in narrative film. However, I felt like Brody struggled with the material – his performance was wooden and the delivery was so exacting that I felt I could envision the page of text he was reciting.

While I understand LaBute is a well-respected playwright, I don’t think a stage-like performance always works in a film. “Closer,” for example, is an excellent adaptation of a modern stage play because the film version recognizes the differences between the mediums and uses it to its advantage. “Some Girl(s)” features long conversations that seem to lack subtlety – I felt like every moment, from a sip of water to each blink, was written into the script. Again, this may work in a stage performance, but there’s something more intimate about film, and the seams of the written words were so incredibly apparent. Even the Shakespearean dialogue in Whedon’s adaptation of “Much Ado About Nothing” felt more realistic than what was portrayed in “Some Girl(s).”

I don’t think the audience is supposed to feel for the character of Guy: he’s narcissistic, arrogant, and borderline sociopathic – flashes of Patrick Bateman without the murder – but I never felt like Brody had a good grasp of the character. His performance begged sympathy, but the words didn’t. Initially, I thought this was due to the writing, but, as evidenced by the more successful female performances, it was definitely Brody’s characterization.

The film looks good – the sets are simple, high-end hotels and I liked the variations in lighting and environment as Guy travels from city to city.

In short, I think “Some Girl(s)” could have benefited with a different lead actor – the film’s strength was completely in the experienced female cast, and I think casting the lead as someone with less billing clout but more talent may have served this film well.

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