The Rules of Attraction
3 out of 5 stars
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Based on the Bret Easton Ellis novel, this wicked social satire is quite funny and entertaining. Even if it never tells us anything new, at least it does so in a fresh and original way. It's set at a small private university where the students are obsessed with life outside the classroom, trying to make a romantic/sexual connection somewhere. Anywhere. Sean (Van Der Beek) is a nice guy with a party-boy image who helps provide drugs for his friends but is now in trouble with his dealer (Collins) and oblivious to the obsessions of a shy girl (Biel). Lauren (Sossamon) is a virginal A-student who's in love with the world-travelling ladies man (Pardue) but perhaps willing to settle for second best. Especially when she notices Sean's sensitive side. And Paul (Somerhalder) is a sardonic pan-sexual loner just trying to find a soulmate, and also locking onto Sean, who seems pre-programmed to let everyone down. Repressed passion and misguided lust abound. There are no rules.

Despite the rather run-of-the-mill subject matter, Avary takes a bracingly inventive approach. Ellis has a way of cutting through surfaces brilliantly, and his style is perfectly adapted cinematically with clever visual trickery and a multi-layered approach to the story. We see everything from various perspectives; characters narrate each scene with their preconceptions and self-interests intact. As a result, we really get into their heads. It helps that the cast is gifted at tapping into the whole late-teen angst thing, which is even more intense and horrific than high school woes due to the sheer lack of restraints. Van Der Beek is especially good at catching the balance between superficial bravado, internal sensitivity and boneheaded stupidity. But Somerhalder is the standout, giving Paul a real sense of longing, not just for sex but also for real companionship and understanding. The filmmakers do go way over the top to poke fun at human stupidity and self-involvement--it's a miracle any of these people survive! Yet since they keep us laughing at the ongoing farce, we hardly feel like we're being educated. But we are.

cert 18 themes, sex, language, drugs, violence 16.Nov.02 lff

dir-scr Roger Avary
with James Van Der Beek, Shannyn Sossamon, Ian Somerhalder, Kip Pardue Jessica Biel, Thomas Ian Nicholas, Clifton Collins Jr, Fred Savage, Eric Stoltz, Faye Dunaway, Swoosie Kurtz, Paul Williams
release US 11.Oct.02; UK 28.Mar.03
Lions Gate
02/US 1h40

Home alone. Paul (Somerhalder) just wants someone to love ... and to love him


vanderbeek sossamon pardu

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send your review to Shadows... there are no rules "*** Actors too old for college play college kids living in a debauched and drugged world. From the Brett Easton Ellis novel. Amusing look at a number of unlikable characters that works reasonably well." ---Gawain McLachlan, Filmnet, Melbourne 14.Mar.03
2002 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall