5 Movies to Watch After Neil LaBute's The Shape of Things (2003)

Image by Hermann Traub from Pixabay

@kolbytoldme, AKA Kolby Mac, AKA co-host of the MinoritiesReport podcast, asked for recommendations for Neil LaBute's 2003 Indie Drama The Shape of Things. Originally created as a stage play, Shape boasts a small intimate cast of four characters who connect and converse with one another about love, friendship, sex, intimacy, and art. Each scene builds suspense as the characters interact reveal or conceal their true intentions. For Kolby's list, I looked for elements such as small, intimate casts, characters who try to navigate being a me versus a we, and sharp dialogue that builds the tension throughout. 

Mike Nichols' Closer (2004)
Both of these movies feature an intimate cast of four characters and suspenseful dialogue that sheds light on the nature of love, lust, selfishness, and ego. Each person demonstrates vulnerability, as well as the capacity to harm another being without remorse. The intertwined lives of four adults living in London paints a bleak picture of how romantic relationships can begin, bloom, bore, hurt, and disappoint. It fits the bill of the type of relational chess game present in The Shape of Things

Stephen Frears' Dangerous Liaisons (1988) 
This French period drama was remade into the contemporary set movie Cruel Intentions (1999), directed by Roger Kumble. Both are compelling bits of cinema, and I recommend Dangerous Liaisons higher only because it's the original. At its heart, Shape is a story of a woman performing a social experiment on a man as if he were a lab rat. She plays a role to see how he will react. Similarly Dangerous Liaisons features two twisted characters conspiring with one another to hurt and manipulate others just to win a bet or protect pride. The cold Evelyn from Shape has much in common with the cruel and manipulative Marquise de Merteuil. The game of love has never been more mesmerizing.

Alexandre Lehmann's Blue Jay (2016)
If you think four characters creates an intimate feel, Kolby, take a chance on this love story that essentially only has two characters. Former high school sweethearts Jim and Amanda meet up in their small town 20 years after they split up and lost touch. As they revisit the landmarks of their romance and make their way to Jim's childhood home, they talk, remember the good times, and with deliberate pacing, finally talk about the reasons they broke up. With camera work that feels almost like a documentary, we spy on their day together. The chemistry between the two leads is clear and palpable. This was one of my favorite movies of 2016. 

Drake Doremus' Like Crazy (2011)
The spellbinding relationship of Anna and Jacob is documented through curated moments of their relationship. Part of what happens in Shape is that as Evelyn begins to date and seduce the more socially awkward Adam, he begins to change himself for her. Likewise, Anna and Jacob fall for one another hard. When a travel visa issue keeps them apart, both halves of the couple have to decide how much they are willing to give up to be together. Although the feelings are mutual in Like Crazy, the theme of changing yourself to please your beloved is strong in each. And never before has a movie so captured the pain of a long distance relationship. 

Won Kar-wai's In the Mood for Love (2001)
This is my dark horse match. Both Shape and In the Mood feature extensive scenes of characters talking with one another, but much of what is communicated is left unspoken. Two people who live in the same building discover their spouses are having an affair with one another. Driven by sadness and loneliness, they reach out to one another for comfort. They spend time together, role playing what might have happened between the cheating couple. With an evocative, atmospheric setting, eye-popping costumes, and an intriguing premise, In the Mood for Love is an unforgettable film set in the heart of Hong Kong.