Rules of Attraction, The
Reviewed by Tom Panarese
Rating: 9.5 Beans
ave to be completely faithful to the source material, and considering the complexity of Bret Easton Ellis's novel, I wouldn't have expected "The Rules of Attraction" to take care of every last detail. However, Roger Avery (he of the Tarantinoid cult classic "Killing Zoe") just does not get the job done. If you'll excuse the metaphor, it's a check swing. Avery sets out to vividly give his viewer Ellis's tale of sex and drugs at a small northeastern liberal arts college in 1985 (although Avery sets it in the 1990s) but ultimately falls flat.
The plot is simple--take your typical Hollywood romantic comedy plot and replace "is in love with" with the phrase "wants to do." In other words, Sean Bateman (James Van Der Beek, and yes he's the brother of Patrick Bateman, the main character in "American Psycho") wants to do Lauren (Shannon Sossamon) who wants to do Victor (Kip Pardue), and used to do Paul (Ian Somerhalder), who wants to do Sean. Just about everyone does Lara (Jessica Biel).
And that's it.
I mean, throw in about as much coke and pot as was in "Boogie Nights," and a soundtrack that was culled from the mix tapes of that girl down the hall freshman year who did nothing but wear black and stay in her room on Friday nights worshipping at the altar of Morrissey, and you have it. In fact, that girl (Theresa Wayman) is in the movie--she wants to do Sean so bad that she writes him love letters. Unfortunately for her, Sean thinks those letters are from Lauren.
Avery focuses on various parties over the course of the semester to move the plot along, and this lends a little bit of realism to the movie--his portrayal of a small, Northeastern liberal arts college is pretty dead-on. The parties are themed ("dress to screw," "end of the world") and even at the pre-party all the people seem to be the same, including Mitchell (Thomas Ian Nicholas) who Paul is convinced is homosexual and almost ends up on the wrong end of a drug dealer's pistol when he goes to score some coke with Sean.
Unfortunately, most of these people were so vapid (I mean, for a second, you want to applaud Van Der Beek for actually showing range, but when you realize that won't make the movie end any quicker, it seems pretty pointless) that you spend most of the movie bored out of your mind. That, and the cinematography reeks of the work of a 20-year-old film student just discovering an editing tool. There are lingering awkward moments that sometimes work, and Avery's bucking of conventional storytelling works in the film's only two good scenes--Paul and Richard (Russell Sams) romping on a hotel bed to George Michael's "Faith" and Victor's dizzying summary of his semester in Europe. Otherwise, "The Rules of Attraction" is more headache-inducing than "Natural Born Killers," with overuse of rewind effects and that freeze-framed zoom that serves nothing except to recall the infamous "daisy" political ad of 1968.
I'd like to say that I can't completely blame Roger Avery for this disaster of a movie, as Ellis's novel is 288 pages and about a week of my life that I will never get back; however, Avery's to blame for cutting out the last (and probably better) 100 pages or so, and as a result failing miserably on the
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