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The Rules Of Attraction (R)
Lions Gate
Official Site
Director: Roger Avary
Producer: Greg Shapiro
Written by: Roger Avary
Cast: James Van Der Beek, Shannyn Sossamon, Ian Somerhalder, Jessica Biel, Kip Pardue, Kate Bosworth

Rating: out of 5


Can you ever truly know anyone? Thatís the question posed by The Rules Of Attraction, Roger Avaryís adaptation of Bret Easton Ellisís novel of the same name, in which sex and attraction are looked at as both the creators and the destructors of human relationships. The answer? No, no you canít know someone, unless you are willing to forgo knowing yourself.

The Rules Of Attraction follows the story of Sean Bateman (Van Der Beek), an ambivalent student at a small liberal arts college in New England. A borderline sociopath (and, incidentally, heís supposed to be the brother of murderer Patrick Bateman of American Psycho, also written by Ellis, so perhaps it was something in the water back home?), Sean is one of those people who goes out of his way to avoid knowing others because of the feeling that he is somehow above the boring routine surrounding him. That is until he becomes infatuated with Lauren (Sossamon), a serial dater who changes boyfriends like she changes socks but is still in love with her ex, Victor (Pardue), who really couldnít give two shits about her and has taken off to Europe. Meanwhile, another of Laurenís exes, Paul (played by Somerhalder with the perfect mix of drollness and rage), openly bisexual, has developed his own crush on Sean and is fairly determined to be in the guyís life. And so follows that age-old dance, where the people being pined over are oblivious to their admirers even as the people they seek donít notice that theyíre alive. In between getting trashed at Dressed to Get Screwed Parties and getting trashed at Thirsty Thursday Happy Hours, the three find that the rules of attraction are, in actuality, a myth.

And thatís to the point of The Rules Of Attraction. A game without rules seldom has any winners, and even when you do win, thereís always a price. According to the film, you can let others in your life, but only to lose yourself in the process. Itís kind of a nihilistic philosophy, but this is also one of those nihilistic pictures in the vein of Greg Araki (though nowhere near as bleak or abstruse). This slanted view on reality is at once the main strength of the filmís outlook and a major anchor for the story at hand. While the characters here are fascinating in their idiosyncrasies (Lauren remains abstinent by perusing a book of venereal diseases before parties; her roommate Lara despises drug dealers, even as she maintains a nasty little coke habit) and the filmís attitude is refreshingly and brutally unsentimental, the story never breathes, never gets beyond its own disaffectedness long enough to realize that the only way to look at lives like this is from a comic vantage point. The film takes itself way too seriously, when the best way to get across its perspective would be to tell things with a cocked eyebrow and the ghost of a smile. This ultimately trivializes what weíre seeing, because it lowers it to the level of exploitation. Thereís too much style, too little fun, and way too many shots of James Van Der Beek glowering at the camera. The Rules Of Attraction wants to illuminate the death of romance in young America, but it ends up just being a showcase for Dawsonís darker side.

óCole Sowell

 

hybridCinema Ratings Guide:

Take a pal and pay full price for both tickets.

Itís worth a full-price ticket.

Itís worth a matinee ticket.

Wait for video rental.

Check out the video from the library, if you must.

While we would never encourage anyone to destroy a video...


Mike Doughty



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