Growing up in Rhode Island, Michael Corrente was exposed to the movie by his father who regularly took his son to see whatever foreign-language films were playing in the area. Those motion pictures an...
Warning: This review doesn’t reveal any specific spoilers, but it does discuss a major element of the film. Proceed with caution.
Deceit is the name of the game in director/screenwriter Neil LaBute’s indie Some Velvet Morning. Not only does the production masquerade as a film when many would call it a play – the set is contained and the cast only includes Stanley Tucci and Alice Eve – but it also puts the audience through some classic LaBute mind games. (If you know LaBute’s work – The Wicker Man and The Shape of Things – then you’re familiar with his attraction to plots that aren’t always as they seem.) But whether the audience is okay with being manipulated or not, both the dialogue and the well-written characters, which are strongly executed by Tucci and Eve, make the tumultuous ride through LaBute’s world worth the deceit.
Set entirely in Velvet’s (Eve) suspiciously well-decorated and expansive two-level brownstone, the story follows a middle-aged man named Fred (Tucci) who has left his wife in the hopes of reuniting with his 20-or-30-something ex-lover. Unfortunately, Fred fails to let Velvet know that he’s coming to visit and, based on the number of suitcases he’s brought with him, that he’s planning on staying for quite a while. What results is the pair matching up against each other in a vindictive and sexually-charged back-and-forth dialogue duel that lasts the entirety of the film.
The conversation – which looks more like a game of chess between two skilled players – revolves around the conflict of Fred wanting to be with Velvet, and Velvet not wanting anything to do with Fred. However, his sociopathic and narcissistic tendencies lead him to believe he deserves to have her and, more importantly, have sex with her. Tucci flawlessly embodies the entitled demeanor and bitter attitude of a man who can’t have what he wants, and we watch as he attempts to control a soft-spoken and collected Eve who, while at first seems to be the victim, quickly shows herself to be quite the competitor. So what about their volatile, anger-infused, twisted, and cruelly sexual relationship keeps us so utterly absorbed in it? The vagueness of it all. The anger that Fred emits and the underlying threat behind each sentence he utters makes us wonder why we don’t want to jump in and defend Velvet. By the books, Velvet is the victim. But there’s this unspoken sense of apathy that falls of off her as she resolutely struts through her home, evidently unaffected by the man who is refusing to leave her home, which makes us feel that there's something we’re not being told. We want to stick around and solve the puzzle that LaBute has set before us. And because LaBute has his trademark shtick, there is of course a surprise ending that throws us through a whirlwind of emotions – emotions that some people will appreciate while others will not.
Deception aside, where the film will falter for some is the fact that it doesn’t seem like a film at all. If we take a closer look at its core elements, it seems like it would be better suited for the stage, which isn’t a far-fetched idea considering the director’s long history with theater. While LaBute does a fine job of navigating the space that he has allotted himself by moving the actors throughout the house in a fluid pace, it still doesn’t hide the fact we’re watching two people hold a conversation in a constrained, almost claustrophobic, space for almost two hours.
But in the end, whether you think it’s a play or film, or whether the ending makes you want to hurl your popcorn at the screen in anger or calmly say, “You got me, LaBute,” in satisfying defeat, he has done his job: He’s made us react to Some Velvet Morning. Yes, he most definitely pulled the rug out from under us, but hey, we’re the ones that decided to watch a LaBute production in the first place. We’ve all been duped, and now Labute is smugly smiling in the corner while he watches his work at play.
Co-starred in his feature directorial debut, "Federal Hill"; was engaged in dispute wiith Trimark, the film's distributor, because they wanted to 'colorize' the black-and-white film for its theatrical release; Corrente won out after the Artists Rights Fou
Helmed "A Shot at Glory", about a Scottish soccer club, starring and produced by Robert Duvall
Produced the Tod Williams directed "Door in the Floor" starring Kim Basinger and Jeff Bridges
Helmed the screen adaptation of David Mamet's play "American Buffalo", starring Dustin Hoffman, Dennis Franz and Sean Nelson
Helmed "Brooklyn Rules", a drama set in 1980s Brooklyn during John Gotti's rise to power, starring Alec Baldwin, Freddie Prinze Jr., Scott Caan and Jerry Ferrara
Awarded lease to the Cranston Street Armory in Rhode Island; planned to develop building into a production facility for TV and film
Produced and directed his play "Federal Hill" Off-Broadway
With wife, produced "Say You'll Be Mine", the directing debut of Brad Kane
Moved to New York City
Directed short "Providence", featuring Keanu Reeves and Deedee Pfeiffer; used as a means of raising funds for a feature that was later abandoned
Directed and co-wrote (with Peter and Bobby Farrelly) "Outside Providence", based on Peter Farrelly's novel
Wrote and acted in nine-minute film "Title Shot", directed by Bill Durkin; film was used to raise money for "Federal Hill"
Founded Studio B Theatre in NYC
Appeared in small role in the Farrelly brothers' comedy "Kingpin"
Growing up in Rhode Island, Michael Corrente was exposed to the movie by his father who regularly took his son to see whatever foreign-language films were playing in the area. Those motion pictures and a high school field trip to Providence's Trinity Square Repertory Company to see a production of "A Man for All Seasons" convinced the youngster to pursue a career in the arts. Following completion of his studies at the Trinity Repertory Conservatory in 1981, Corrente bartered his abilities as a contractor in return for rehearsal spaces and production opportunities, mounting over 25 productions. In 1984, he set out for Manhattan where he wrote the one-act, semi-autobiographical "Federal Hill" and eventually established the Studio B Theatre Ensemble. Eventually he expanded the one-act to full-length and produced and directed its Off-Broadway premiere. Drawing on his experiences living in a slightly insular Italian-American community, he crafted a story about a group of buddies--small time hoods whose lives are upended when one falls for a coed. Knowing he had strong material, Corrente teamed with film director Bill Durkin to shoot "Title Shot" (1989), a nine-minute reel which they hoped could be used for fund-raising purposes. Over the course of the next few years, the script for Corrente's debut feature, also titled "Federal Hill" took shape. Shot in less than a month in 1993 on black-and-white stock and a very low budget, "Federal Hill" utilized the city of Providence as a major character as well. While modest in scope, the film's expert cinematography and Corrente's spin on what could have been familiar material won over critics. There was a slight brouhaha when Trimark, the film's distributor, made public its plans to issue "Federal Hill" in a "colorized" version, claiming that contemporary audiences wouldn't go to see a black-and-white movie. While the director was willing to consider such a move for a video release, he greatly opposed tinting the theatrical release. Eventually Trimark backtracked and agreed to let the release print remain in black and white and allowed Corrente to oversee the "colorization" of a home video version.<p> Corrente was signed by Castle Rock to helm the feature adaptation of David Mamet's three-character drama "American Buffalo" with Al Pacino set to star. When Pacino balked at using a relatively novice helmer, the studio put the project in turnaround where it languished until the Samuel Goldwyn Company agreed to distribute it. Teaming Dustin Hoffman and Dennis Franz, "American Buffalo" premiered at the 1996 Boston Film Festival. The majority of critics again were impressed with Corrente's handling of actors but as Mamet retained the claustrophobic settings of his original, the overall effect was that of a filmed play rather than a re-imagining or reinterpretation of a work.<p> While he worked on developing other projects (including "The Yellow Handkerchief"), Corrente and his actress wife Libby Langdon (who co-starred in "Federal Hill") served as producers for the romantic comedy-drama "Say You'll Be Mine" (1998), the screenwriting and directorial debut of Brad Kane. At the same time, he was working on a long-cherished project, the film adaptation of Peter Farrelly's novel "Outside Providence" (1999). Corrente had bought the book for one dollar at a second-hand store in 1988 and quickly obtained the screen rights from its author for the same price. Responding not only to the story's Rhode Island setting but also its skewed sense of humor, he was certain it could be translated into a screenplay. Success, however, intervened. Corrente went off to make his films and Peter Farrelly with his brother Bobby crafted the low-brow comedy hits "Dumb and Dumber" (1994) and "Kingpin" (1996). When the three convened to pen the script, the Farrelly brothers were impressed with Corrente's disciplined approach, which was in direct contrast to their more laid-back style. Financed partly by Wall Street investors and Rhode Islanders, "Outside Providence" began shooting in the fall of 1997 with Corrente's pal Alec Baldwin in the pivotal role of a hard-drinking, blue-collar parent and newcomer Shawn Hatosy as the protagonist. Harvey Weinstein at Miramax picked up the film and allowed the director to fine-tune it until its release in the summer of 1999 to generally positive reviews.
divorced August 2004
owned the three-legged dog Samantha featured in "Outside Providence"
Trinity Repertory Conservatory
On his collaboration with the Farrelly brothers: "I write drama. I get up at an ungodly hour, and I'm very disciplined and obsessed. But Bobby and Peter wake up like normal people. They sit around and read the paper for two hours and then Bobby says something funny, and you fall off the sofa laughing. I learned that you can't force jokes." --Michael Corrente quoted in THE NEW YORK TIMES, August 29, 1999
"I'm not a big sexual-content guy. For me, it's either sell me triple-X-rated pornography or shut the dorr with your foot on the way into the bedroom. Anything in between is embarrassing and awkward. I don't WANT to see kids going at it." --Corrente quoted in THE BOSTON GLOBE, August 29, 1999
"Michael is rare. He's very generous of spirit, he's very warm and funny, and he's also very passionate--and just below the durface is this wonderful sense that he's just a little nutty. But it was a pleasure to work on a film that is so personal and meaningful to the director. It made this movie one of the best experiences I've ever had on a set." --Alec Baldwin on Michael Corrente, quoted in the press materials for "Outside Providence"