SOME VELVET MORNING Movie Review
The trouble with exposition is that it is a necessary evil.
You can scintillate me with the way that you put words in a bag and shake them around. You can infiltrate my soul with your fable and intoxicate me with your visual sense, but none of it matters if I don’t know who the hell these characters are and why they are doing things that are despicable or amazing or horrifying or hilarious or naked. I need to know these things so I can connect, but when you tell me that needed knowledge, you pierce the fantasy.
I know that I am watching a movie now. I love movies, but as our collective fetish for reality television shows us, we like to pretend that we are observing real life — we like to lie to ourselves and we love to be voyeurs.
Neil LaBute lets us be that with Some Velvet Morning — a sparse but explosive tale about power, obsession, and sex that introduces us to it’s sole characters (Stanley Tucci and Alice Eve) from the outside in, eschewing exposition in a fascinating, intrusive, sometimes frustrating way.
Tucci is splendid and repugnant and eventually frightening as Fred, an older man who surprises Eve’s mostly unnamed character on the first day of his new life, showing up at her door with (literally) all of his baggage after leaving his wife. Clearly, they were once lovers, but after a multi-year hiatus, there is a distance that he tries to minimize by romanticizing what they had.
You can tell that while she has been on Fred’s mind, he hasn’t been on hers, and while she tries to be polite, his frustration grows.
Velvet was her name once. We find that out when it is revealed that she was/is a prostitute, something she is both at ease with while sitting in her well appointed brownstone, but also unsettled by when Fred uses her former moniker in a stabbing way.
In many ways, this feels like a psychological hostage drama, but she won’t run away when given the chance and we can’t understand why she occasionally draws him closer to her in the way that a lover would. Clearly, she cares for him, but it’s only for a part of him that feels further and further away as he becomes more crude, truculent, and single-minded.
It’s as if, upon realizing that she has moved on and continued seeing other men (including his son, Chris), that Fred’s disguise begins to fall to the floor. Suddenly, Fred becomes more clearly carnal and his words have more edge to them, giving us a peak at his true desires, but no indication of the horrific lengths that he is willing to go to fulfill those wants.
The emotional thwack of what comes next does and doesn’t matter. LaBute is playing with us, pushing us to ask questions about Velvet, Fred and ourselves.
Is it manipulative? Absolutely, but that doesn’t diminish the overall skill that is involved in the execution. Particularly as it pertains to Alice Eve’s performance. Those last few minutes that everyone is — at once — talking about and not, stand out as a showcase for the actress as she wordlessly bridges the film from one extreme to another, minimizing our whiplash with an affection that makes no sense until that stunning and controversial conclusion that will either poison your entire view of this film or make you herald LaBute’s talents and guts.
In short, this is the very definition of a love/hate film.
Some Velvet Morning is available via VOD now.