The Shape of Things
2 out of 5 stars
R E V I E W   B Y   R I C H   C L I N E
the shape of things Using his original cast, LaBute adapts his own play for the big screen ... but leaves it far too stagy and theatrical. Adam (Rudd) is a nebbish, pudgy guard in a museum who meets the free-spirited art student Evelyn (Weisz) just as she's getting ready to vandalise a statue in protest of the corruption of true art. The two make an unlikely couple, but begin a rather sweet courtship, watched sceptically by Adam's friends Philip and Jenny (Weller and Mol), who are engaged to be married in an underwater ceremony. After only a few weeks, Evelyn has worked a remarkable transformation on Adam, who's now thinner, stylish, more confident and even considering plastic surgery on his nose. But she's not going to stop there, and soon both Philip and Jenny are swept up in her storm.

The film's problems have nothing to do with the fact that there are only four characters. That actually adds to the tone and focuses the story finely on LaBute's complex examination of art and cruelty, manipulation and free will, the obsession with surfaces and how relationships are rarely what we think they are. Sadly, the film never overcomes its stage roots; the cast is awkwardly directed to unnatural performances that are too big for an unforgiving cinema camera. All four are capable actors who add side touches that make the characters interesting, but the dialog is just far too intense for a film like this--it feels talky and overwhelmingly pretentious as it circles around waiting to pounce on something. This isn't to say it's uninteresting or pointless; LaBute is examining important themes that are rarely if ever touched on in such a straightforward and provocative way. But all of this careful construction leaves the characters as mere puppets, both self-aware and deeply clueless ... but only because this is how LaBute wants them to be. His final plot point is ingenious and telling, and yet it hits us without any resonance because the characters are so unsympathetic. There's probably a great film to be made from this play, but someone else should take a stab at it.

cert 15 themes, language, innuendo 10.Sep.03

dir-scr Neil LaBute
with Rachel Weisz, Paul Rudd, Gretchen Mol, Frederick Weller
release US 9.May.03; UK 28.Nov.03
Universal
03/US 1h36

Love hurts: The mismatched Weisz and Rudd above; perfect couple Mol and Weller below.

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2003 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall

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