The Rules of Attraction

Review Date:
Director: Roger Avary
Writer: Roger Avary
Producers: Greg Shapiro
James Van Der Beek as Sean Bateman
Shannyn Sossamon as Lauren Hynde
Ian Somerhalder as Paul Denton
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.
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) 2021 Berge Garabedian