Movies like My Dinner with Andre and Richard Linklater’s Before series have proven that long, extended conversations can be just as thrilling as any car chase or shootout. Some Girl(s), the new film from Party Girl director Daisy von Scherler Mayer, can now be added to that list. Based on the play by Neil LaBute (who also adapted the screenplay), it is 90 minutes of people sitting in various hotel rooms, talking. While that may not sound like a ton of fun, the content of the conversations is frequently riveting, turning Some Girl(s) into an absorbing character study.
Adam Brody plays a character credited only as “Man.” Man is a successful writer who, as we meet him, is traveling from city to city, meeting up with former lovers. He explains to the first, high school sweetheart Sam (Jennifer Morrison), that he’s about to get married and wants to make amends for anything he did to hurt the women he was with prior to his fiancée. After Sam, he moves on to sexual conquest Tyler (Mia Maestro), a married college professor named Lindsay (Emily Watson) with whom he had a fling, his best friend’s little sister, Reggie (Zoe Kazan), and finally Bobbie (Kristen Bell), the girl he claims to have never gotten over. Most of the female characters are not happy to see Man. His mere presence brings their anger back to the surface. He begs for forgiveness, only to be confronted with some painful truths about himself from each of the women who once loved him.
Some Girl(s) is about a guy who’s a bastard, suspects he’s a bastard, but adamantly refuses to accept that he’s a bastard. While Man initially appears sincere in his stated desire to express remorse, he is quick to deflect what his former lovers tell him. We sense that he wants forgiveness, not actual atonement. Adam Brody does an excellent job straddling the line, so that we care about Man even as we begin to see what a jerk he was (and maybe still is). Neil LaBute’s dialogue crackles as it puts Man through the paces. The best sequence is one in which he’s reunited with Reggie, who informs him that an “innocent” thing he once did had significantly painful repercussions for her. Zoe Kazan is a powerhouse in this section. She starts off seeming like a typically cute Manic Pixie Dream Girl, only to unleash a torrent of fury upon Man. Each of the hotel room meet-ups — this one in particular — shed light on a character who at first appears benign. LaBute deliberately, subtly peels away the veneer of Man, in the process exposing the way males in general can often be so out of tune with the women in their lives that they end up wreaking emotional destruction. (It is surely no coincidence that all the females in the picture have male-sounding names; it’s their turn to be the aggressors.)
The concept of a guy hopping around the country to reconnect with former flames has been done before, and even done more powerfully. Jim Jarmusch’s Broken Flowers comes to mind as one example. It had a sense of personal scope that Some Girl(s) doesn’t quite achieve. The chapter with the sexually liberated Tyler would have benefitted from being longer and more detailed, and the movie stops on a note that’s perhaps too obvious, blatantly telling us something about Man that we’ve already figured out quite explicitly. While it could have improved in those areas, Some Girl(s) remains engaging for the fierce, uncompromising nature of the dialogue, as well as the first-rate performances.