The Neighbor Review - An Unconventional Romance Gone Unconventionally Wrong

The city of Los Angeles, specifically downtown Los Angeles, has been the backdrop for many film genres (i.e. - action/adventure, crime/drama and even horror).  Now, Los Angeles will get a romanticized feel in Curb Entertainment’s romantic comedy THE NEIGHBOR starring Matthew Modine (Jeff) and Michèle Laroque (Christine).
THE NEIGHBOR tells the story of an unconventional romance between an architect/artist ( Modine) and a real estate business developer ( Laroque).  It is based loosely on the 2003 French Film " Mon Voisin Du Dessus" ( My Upstairs Neighbor) which actress Michèle Laroque also starred in.  The script was written and adapted by Fighting Tommy Riley director Eddie O’Flaherty and J.P. Davis.  In the film, Jeff starts to exhibit questionable and erratic behavior when he finds out from his daughter Ally ( Gina Mantegna) that his ex-wife Mindy ( Meredith Scott Lynn) is marrying his best friend Larry ( David Youse). 

Jeff (Matthew Modine) and Christine (Michèle Laroque) along with Mindy (Meredith Scott Lynn) and Larry (David Youse) in a scene from THE NEIGHBOR

While going through his nervous breakdown, Jeff also has to deal with the fact that Christine buys the building he is living in and wants him to move out so that she may continue to renovate her new home.  It quickly turns into a battle of wills.  Several mishaps happen which continue to intensify Christine’s desire to get him to move out, from almost accidentally burning her garden down to providing a salty, albeit shockingly unexpected flavor to a dinner party.  The tension in its most predictable way becomes romantic and even more complications abound, including Christine’s control freak fiancé Jonathan ( Ed Quinn) and her boss’ ( Richard Kind) desire for her to land a major account.  The idea and elements are there for a laugh out loud comedy.

Matthew Modine (Jeff) and Michèle Laroque (Christine) star in THE NEIGHBOR.

THE NEIGHBOR has an advantage working in its favor.  It is original and refreshing to see downtown Los Angeles in a more positive and beautiful light as the current conditions of downtown Los Angeles are getting a much needed face lift.  The film can truly bank on its breathtaking Los Angeles skyline along with its downtown district lofts that are key elements in showcasing the setting and creating the mood.
While THE NEIGHBOR does have a couple of light and funny moments, the rest of the film is muddled by characters that are stoic and unappealing.  Jeff’s nervous breakdown goes downhill much like the movie.  The movie fails to provide the audience with moments that lead up to Jeff feeling completely out of sorts over hearing about his ex-wife’s upcoming nuptials.  This film also lacks a clear and consistent cause and effect, an essential element needed to define the characters more so the audience won't question their objectives.  The chemistry between Matthew Modine and Michèle Laroque is lacking as it just seems like there is not a sense of believability between them.  The acting does really need to be strong in order for this film to carry weight.  A strong protagonist along with an equally strong antagonist is needed to make this film work as this film relies on little moments for laughter value.  While these moments do carry the story to a certain extent, they are few and far between and the rest of the story needs to be plausible and provide substance and weight in order to push it along.
Overall, the film does have light moments that are appealing.  The characters and the story are not strong enough to make this film flourish on its own. 

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