FILM: Good Neighbors

Sometime during the last year Jacob Tierney, for some reason or another, wrote for the screen and directed the film Good Neighbors. The movie goes about its fairly standard sacrifice to the whodunit genre with a kind of workman’s competency. Each of the few characters is given one frustratingly simple trait to telegraph to the audience and spends the next 95 minutes hammering it home. When halfway through the movie a character, who you can only imagine is being set up as a red herring, is revealed to be a killer, it’s less a postmodern elevation of the genre as it is saying, “look, we all know where this is going, so we might as well get there.”

The end of Good Neighbors manages to generate a little interest in a short narrative burst, just like the sort of mild twist that would make a solid beginning of a second act in most movies but passes for a climax in this one. Other than that, the only notable quality the film has going for it is the cynical, reactionary view it takes towards sex. The act is depicted at its worst as repulsive evidence of a depraved mind and, at best, as an act of manipulation. But this view is more than inherited patriarchy; it’s part of a general view of human interaction as a sort of submission to weakness.

Jay Baruchel’s character, Victor, is relentlessly mocked for his desire to be around the proudly antisocial Spencer and Louise. And when I say proudly antisocial, they’re people whose only interest in others is the dismembering and manipulation of them. Unless something grisly is happening, they’re bored, but this isn’t considered a bad thing. Good Neighbors has a respect and alignment with this from the delight it takes in carnage to its view of human interaction as an embarrassing, awkward affair. When Victor practically begs Spencer and Louise to have dinner with him, we laugh along with them at this pathetic, clinging need. But this is what ultimately hurts the movie; this belief that the only value characters have is how bloody their insides are.

As the film glides dispassionately from awkwardly staged wide shots to people sneering at each other to blood spattering on a wall, we feel, “eh, what’s the point?”

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