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The Rules of Attraction (2002)
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Review Date: October 03, 2002
Director: Roger Avary
Writer: Roger Avary
Producers: Greg Shapiro
Actors:
James Van Der Beek as Sean Bateman
Shannyn Sossamon as Lauren Hynde
Ian Somerhalder as Paul Denton
Plot:
This movie tracks the lives of three students at a small, affluent New England college as they attempt to make sense of their respective love lives. Sean, is a womanizing drug-dealer who likes to bang anything that moves, but has now fallen for Lauren, a virgin whose pining for her boyfriend to return from his big ol' European trip, while Paul, who likes to hit on straight men, now has the hots for Sean, the aforementioned womanizing drug-dealer. Their paths cross a bevy of other lost souls in a college party week to end all college party weeks. Sex, drugs and rock 'n roll ensues.
Critique:
A rockin', rollin', all-around kickass highly stylized adventure through the twisted lives of a handful of college students all looking to get laid, get high and fall in love (i.e. the story of my fuckin' life!!!). If sex, drugs and plenty of rock n' roll stimulate your cinematic libido, pull up a chair, tap a joint, spread your legs, drink some Jack & Cokes and fall into the wicked world of Roger Avary's latest cinematic oeuvre, based on the Bret Easton Ellis novel, and prepare to relive some of the pathetic love games from your own collegiate past or those still ongoing today. "No one will ever know you" is one of the themes in this picture and as each character in the film basically lives their own little existence among the hordes of excess around them, it's to note that, despite that adage, many of them actually do try to connect with others, but as is the case most times, miscommunication, bad timing, a slip of the tongue, a left turn at Albuquerque and everything generally goes to shits. This film is not a "fluffy" movie by any means and spits on the theory that tells of "love overcoming all". It does, however, suggest that drinking, fucking and doing a whole lotta druggeroonies might be one way to ease the pain as we all tiptoe our way toward that fleeting goal of "finding that special someone" in our lives and ridding ourselves of that ugly monster, better known as...loneliness. I loved pretty much everything about this movie and a lot of that had to do with Ellis' writing style, which I've adored through LESS THAN ZERO and AMERICAN PSYCHO, the directing, which Avary tosses up in the air and shellacs out of the ballpark and the actors, all of whom delve right into their characters and rock out.

This is not a happy-go-lucky movie though. It's the film that most parents want to pretend doesn't exist (which is why I'm guessing that most "old timers" will hate it), but that many kids know...does. For me, it brought back many good and bad memories of relationships, parties and drunken buffoonery gone by. It reminded me of how every love, every kiss, every connection with another is a combination of destiny, attitude, timing, chemistry and heck...communication! It reminded me of how much my own life stinks without my girlfriend right now, and how my drinking and binging isn't solving anything. But I digress and before I write a term paper on the suckiness of my own social calendar at this time...back to the movie. The soundtrack also rocked! I knew that Tarantino (Avary's old video store buddy) had a firm grasp on connecting song to scene, but Avary seems to have that similar talent. I loved the eclectic nature of it all, everything from the French quirky tunes to the alternative 80s stuff to the over-the-top pop reminders like Wham! and the Cure. The actors were also enjoyable to watch, and without putting too much emphasis on one particular guy...James Van Der Beek is friggin' awesome here. He is completely against the type that he usually plays, but on top of that, he is incredibly intense, viciously charismatic and ultimately, extremely entertaining. In fact, he reminded me a lot of another actor who recently kicked my ass: Christian Bale, who smoked the character of Patrick Bateman all over the screen in AMERICAN PSYCHO (the irony of course, is that Van Der Beek plays the character of Sean Bateman in this film-- technically the brother of Patrick).

Shannyn Sossamon was also very believable and empathetic as the messed up virgin skater chick with the adorable smile, who in one particularly funny scene ends up talking to a major film geek, who mentions Tarantino's name in passing. The scene immediately following that one is also hilarious, in fact, the movie is filled with dozens of such memorable moments, many of which feature sharp dialogue and dark humor. Just like in GO, there is a whole subplot concerning drug-dealers which is a blast and a wonderful split-screen scenario that takes us through to the first meeting between The Beek and Sossamon, and is one of the more original such reunions that I've ever seen. Awesome stuff! I also loved the whole X-Mas theme, the lights, the snow, the Kubrick touches (as well as the tip of the cap to TRAINSPOTTING) and one of the most entertaining sequences from any film this year, which fast-forwards us through Kip Pardue's European vacation, a sequence that I truly can't even begin to capture in words here. You really have to see it to believe it. Great stuff and somewhat reminiscent of my own European trip-save for all those hard drugs, sex and parties.

In the end, there really isn't much of a "story" in this film. It's basically a "week in the life" of three fucked up kids (who isn't?) going through some heartfelt shite within the backdrop of a massive college party weekend (I loved the Pre-Saturday Night Party Party-these people love to party!), filled with nudity (yup, we see Pardue dick and plenty of boobies), drugs, homosexuality, alcohol, sex, violence, tears, laughter and about as much style as you could fit into a picture, including backwards motion, super-close-ups, freeze-frames, fast motion, split screens and everything and anything in between. That's me applauding writer/director Roger Avary's effort on this film which doesn't sell out, doesn't play it safe and features one of the most abrupt endings of the year (mid-sentence, baby!). You just couldn't have it any other way. Of course, this may not be your bag, this may not appeal to your sensibilities, but if any of the stuff that I've mentioned above pokes your interest even in the least bit, I advise you see this film and prepare to be dazzled. Sure, there's a little self-indulgence and a tad of pretension in the mix (I love the shot of the snowflake landing on Beek's face and turning into a tear), but within this environment and the backgrounds of these characters...I, for one, was pulled into their engaging lives, connected to their emotions and was hooked all the way. If you're looking for a fairy tale...go elsewhere. This is the real deal, kids: pretty to look at, stylish all the way, but ugly on the inside, painful and ultimately...quite tragic. Kinda like Patrick Bateman...and life!
(c) 2017 Berge Garabedian
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5:51AM on 01/20/2006
Well . . . there are a few things about this movie that weren't all that bad. I did think the whole time sequence editing was pretty cool. I did chuckle a few times during the places I found funny. The stereotypical homosexuals trying to get their suicidal friend help got a laugh or two out of me. Some of the other people in the theatre did also. And of course, what guy minds seeing Jessica Biel and Kate Bosworth moaning and squealing in their respective sex scenes.

The soundtrack to the
Well . . . there are a few things about this movie that weren't all that bad. I did think the whole time sequence editing was pretty cool. I did chuckle a few times during the places I found funny. The stereotypical homosexuals trying to get their suicidal friend help got a laugh or two out of me. Some of the other people in the theatre did also. And of course, what guy minds seeing Jessica Biel and Kate Bosworth moaning and squealing in their respective sex scenes.

The soundtrack to the movie was the one thing that I enjoyed throughout the movie. It even sounded good in the reverse scenes. The trip through Europe sequence was definitely cool with the fast paced editing and the voice over trying to explain it all. The editing of some of the scenes was very original as well. Example (scene SPOILER): van der Beek & Sossamon getting up early Saturday morning to attend some special class. The whole sequence is shot split screen so you see what each is doing. They end up meeting each other and having a conversation split screen with each side having a close up shot of each other talking. Very cool. (END SPOILER)
The snowflake landing on van der Beek's face was nice too.

But other than that this flick wasn't all that; mainly because there wasn't much to the damn movie. It was basically drugs, alcohol, sex, drugs, alcohol, sex. Normally I wouldn't complain about such a sequence as that but it got old really fast. Apparently all women at this school are easy sluts that just want drugs, alcohol, and sex. Other than the drugs part, that's my perfect world. But as we all know, it's not a perfect world and again, it got old and boring.

The three characters this movie revolves around: a gay guy, a drug dealer who has some serious issues regarding the opposite sex (James van der Beek - the only guy I recognized among the three), and the woman he's in love with who's got some serious issues on her own involving men. There is basically no character development involving these main characters. They're basically the same throughout the movie. Therefore, I repeat, it got old watching these people.

Last but not least, there really isn't a plot to the Rules of Attraction. I really don't get what the title means either. Maybe it's implied and I missed it. The ending of the movie went way over my head. I'm thinking the director/writer (they're the same person as I understand it) was thinking he'd have a cult classic on his hands or something. I think he should tried harder to convince Biel and Bosworth to show some more skin and have less guys dancing around in their boxers, especially when it's the same guy doing too often.
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