Your Friends & Neighbors  

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Your Friends & Neighbors is a 1998 black comedy film written and directed by Neil LaBute and starring Amy Brenneman, Aaron Eckhart, Catherine Keener, Nastassja Kinski, Jason Patric and Ben Stiller in an ensemble cast. The film was the first to be reviewed on the website Rotten Tomatoes. The film's credit sequences feature music by Apocalyptica.

Plot

Set in an unnamed American city, two urban, middle-class couples deal with their unhappy relationships by shamelessly lying and cheating in their quest for happiness. Jerry (Stiller) is a theater instructor who is married to Terri (Keener), a writer who is alienated and unfulfilled with his love-making skills. Jerry and Terri have dinner with Mary (Brenneman), a writer friend of Terri's, and Mary's husband Barry (Eckhart) a business executive who is oblivious to his wife's unhappiness. During dinner, Mary talks about writing for a local newspaper column about bickering couples and their troubles, while Barry does not think that other couple's problems are anyone else's concern. After dinner, Jerry discreetly asks Mary out on a date. Mary, out of frustration, accepts.

The next day, Terri, visiting a local art gallery, meets and begins a secret romance with Cheri (Kinski), a lesbian art gallery worker. Terri feels satisfied with their lovemaking and enjoys the quiet of it compared with Jerry's performance.

Meanwhile, Cary (Patric), a doctor friend of Barry's, is a devious and narcissistic sexual predator who picks up and seduces naïve and emotionally vulnerable young women, and quickly dumps them for his cruel pleasure of watching them cry. Aware of the distance between Barry and Mary, Cary tries to persuade Barry to leave his wife for the swinging, non-monogamous lifestyle that Cary has built for himself. Barry thinks that his marriage can be saved.

During Jerry and Mary's rendezvous at a local hotel, Jerry fails to get aroused during foreplay. As a result, he takes out his frustrations on Mary, believing that she has made him impotent. Angry and offended by Jerry's misogynist outburst, Mary abruptly ends their "affair." She feels more miserable a few days later when Barry unwittingly takes her to the very same hotel room to rekindle their romance. Mary realizes that Jerry had told Barry about being in the room. Barry fails to understand Mary's unhappy attitude and thinks he might somehow be responsible for it.

Jerry, Barry, and Cary get together to work out at the local gym and, in the steam room, Barry tries to get them to reveal their best sexual experiences. Barry tells them that he only feels satisfied with himself. Cary then tells a disturbing story about his best sexual experience: partaking in a gang rape where he and a group of friends forcibly sodomized a male high school classmate on the floor in the locker room at his boarding school when he was a teenager. Both Barry and Jerry are stunned but fascinated by Cary's sordid and evil story. When Barry tries to persuade Jerry to reveal his best sexual experience, Jerry refuses. After being goaded in the locker room, Jerry angrily responds that his best sexual experience was with Barry's wife. He then leaves, with Barry too stunned to respond. Cary, also caught off-guard, says: "that beats my story."

After returning home from the gym, Barry confronts Mary over dinner about her affair with Jerry just as Terri accidentally finds out about Jerry's indiscretion after finding Mary's phone number in one of Jerry's playbooks. Mary and Jerry are both unapologetic for their unfaithfulness and express dissatisfaction to both of their spouses. Terri accidentally reveals her own lesbian romance with Cheri, but does not display any guilt for her infidelity. Jerry later confronts Cheri at the art gallery over his wife's affair with her. Cheri also shows no remorse or regret for her relationship with Terri, or with interfering with Jerry and Terri's troubled marriage. Cheri tells Jerry that Terri can do much better than being with him.

As the film comes to an end, both of the married couples split up. Terri moves in with Cheri, although she quickly finds her emotional neediness irritating. Jerry continues his philandering lifestyle with his female theater students. Barry becomes miserable all by himself because he is no longer able to give himself an erection during masturbation. Mary is revealed to have moved in with Cary, who treats her as coldly as all the other women in his life even though she is pregnant with his child. The film closes on Mary and Cary in bed, as Mary realizes that she is even more unhappy in her new relationship with the catty and heartless Cary than she had been with her clueless husband Barry.

Cast




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