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Film / Your Friends & Neighbors

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Your Friends & Neighbors is a 1998 Black Comedy film, written and directed by Neil La Bute and starring Aaron Eckhart (who'd appeared in LaBute's previous film, In the Company of Men), Amy Brenneman, Catherine Keener, Ben Stiller, Nastassja Kinski, and Jason Patric.

The film follows a pair of ordinary middle-class couples (Eckhart and Brenneman in one, Stiller and Keener in the other), none of whom are particularly happy, secure or sexually fulfilled. In search of excitement and satisfaction, the couples experiment with adultery. The couples are accompanied by a womanizing doctor (Patric) and an artist's assistant who works in a gallery (Kinski).

Notable for being the first film to be reviewed on Rotten Tomatoes.

Tropes in the film:

  • Bisexual Love Triangle: Terri cheats on Jerry with Cheri, ultimately leaving him for Cheri, after she discovers that he has also been unfaithful.
  • Cluster F-Bomb: Much like Clerks, the MPAA threatened to give this film an NC-17 rating almost entirely due to its foul-mouthed dialogue and frank discussions of sexuality, in spite of it being entirely devoid of violence and drug use and almost entirely lacking in onscreen nudity.
  • Cover Version: Apocalyptica's all-cello cover of Metallica's "Enter Sandman" plays over the opening credits.
  • Cuckold: Barry, after Mary cheats on him with Jerry.
  • Depraved Bisexual: Cary already seemed like the most actively malicious character in a cast primarily made up of unlikeable jerks, but his depravity is cemented when asked what his greatest sexual experience was, and he describes an incident in high school, when he and three of his classmates gang-raped a fellow (male) classmate.
  • Downer Ending: Barry and Mary divorce: Mary ends up with Cary but seems no happier or more satisfied, Barry can no longer achieve an erection. Jerry and Terri split up: Terri stays with Cheri, but keeps her at a distance, much to Cheri's distress.
  • Dr. Jerk: Cary is a doctor, and shamelessly abuses his position of authority (such as pilfering some hospital letterheaded paper in order to send a letter to an ex falsely informing her that she has tested positive for HIV). Not to mention his admitting to having gang-raped a classmate in high school.
  • Gender-Equal Ensemble: Three men and three women, and effectively no other characters besides.
  • The Loins Sleep Tonight:
    • Despite Jerry's optimism, his first encounter with Mary does not go according to plan. Mary seems to view him with sheer contempt afterwards.
    • At the end of the film, Barry seems to be unable to achieve an erection after splitting up with Mary.
  • Lousy Lovers Are Losers: Most of the characters in the story have very unsatisfying sex lives.
    • Barry says that no sexual partner can satisfy himself more than... himself, and seems to regard his wife Mary as unable to truly please him. The fact he'd rather masturbate than have sex also leaves her sexually frustrated. When she leaves him, he also finds himself unable to get an erection anymore, even via masturbation.
    • Jerry and Terri have a very unsatisfying sex life. She gets annoyed and turned off by how he likes to talk during sex and he's unhappy that she just lays there. Terri eventually just leaves him for Cheri.
    • When Jerry and Mary have their affair and attempt to sleep together, he ends up being unable to perform. Frustrated, he blames it on her, shattering what little self-confidence Mary had about her ability in bed.
  • Minimalist Cast: There are effectively only six actors with speaking parts in the film.
  • Most Writers Are Writers: Mary is a journalist. Terri is a copywriter who writes the copy on the side of tampon boxes, among other products.
  • Nameless Narrative: None of the characters are actually named in the film. The characters are given Rhyming Names in the end credits, but they're clearly just there to differentiate the roles.
  • No Periods, Period: Averted when Cary furiously berates a one-night stand for bleeding on his expensive bedsheets.
  • Rape as Drama: Cary's high school anecdote, in which he and three of his classmates gang-raped a fellow classmate.
  • Rhyming Names: The characters are named Jerry, Terri, Cheri, Cary, Mary and Barry, but their names are only revealed in the closing credits.
  • Speech-Centric Work: LaBute's background in theatre is immediately obvious, and effectively every scene consists of characters talking and nothing else.
  • Strange Minds Think Alike: Cheri works as an artist's assistant in a gallery. Every other character independently visits the gallery, and the conversations between Cheri and the other character always begin with exactly the same exchanges:
    Cheri: Hi.
    Other character: How are you?
    Cheri: Fine, thanks.
    Other character: Is this a part of a collection or is it...?
    Cheri: No, it's just a single piece. Nice, isn't it?
    Other character: Very.
    Cheri: First time here?
    Other character: Hm-mm. You?
    Cheri: No, I work here.
    Other character: Work? Really? Are you an artist?
    Cheri: No. Artist's assistant.
  • Tagline: "A modern immorality tale."
  • Where the Hell Is Springfield?: Although filmed in Los Angeles, the city the film takes place in is never specified. Palm trees visible in the background of one shot were digitally removed in post-production to preserve the ambiguity and the sense that the story could take place anywhere in the US.