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Overall Rating

Worth A Look: 17.14%
Average: 16.19%
Pretty Bad: 18.1%
Total Crap: 20%

8 reviews, 57 user ratings

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Rules of Attraction, The
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by EricDSnider

"Needs more skank."
3 stars

If it is possible, "The Rules of Attraction" actually isn't trashy enough to do justice to its source material.

That would be Bret Easton Ellis' 1986 novel, a scathing satire of debauchery among college students in the mid-80s. The book is fueled by cocaine, beer-drinking and wanton sexual promiscuity, highlighting how some people reacted to the general economic prosperity of the Reagan Era.

The movie, adapted and directed by "Pulp Fiction" co-writer Roger Avary, retains only some of the bacchanalia that pervades the novel. A worse misstep, however, is in moving the setting from 1985 to approximately 2002, without altering anything else. The ideals are mid-'80s, as is the drug of choice (cocaine). Even the soundtrack is full of Depeche Mode and George Michael. Avary has put the clothes and hairstyles into a new decade, but left the movie's soul back in the '80s. Put simply, "The Rules of Attraction" doesn't work in a 2002 setting. That's not to say college students don't still party 24 hours a day; it's just that the partying is different, and it's no longer a reflection of America in general.

That is how the movie does not live up to the book. How the movie lives up to itself is the real issue, though, and taken on its own merits, it's a technically proficient, well-acted bit of unimportance. Few films have worked harder to accomplish such nothingness.

In an extended opening sequence set at a party, we meet the principal figures, all students at a New England liberal arts college. There is Lauren (Shanny Sossamon), who pines for her boyfriend Victor (Kip Pardue), who is galavanting in Europe. There is also Paul (Ian Somerhalder), her bisexual -- but mostly gay -- ex-boyfriend, who develops a crush on the mostly straight Sean (James Van Der Beek). There is also a large supporting cast of revelers and sexual predators; one gets the sense that attending this particular college requires having a substantial tolerance for sleep deprivation and beer.

Through various characters points of view, we see every angle of the party and its follow-up parties. The film is about truth being relative, and things not being what they appear to be, and Avary adapts Easton's multi-narrator novel with infectious enthusiasm. Things occur, and then the film reverses itself, moving the characters back to the starting point so we can observe everything again from a different perspective. It is vastly entertaining to watch.

Avary takes delight in breaking down expectations. Witness the casting of squeaky-clean TV heartthrob James Van Der Beek in a role fraught with sexuality and obscenity. Former child star Fred Savage also appears in the film as a doped-up acquaintance of Paul's.

For his part, Van Der Beek plays Sean with a combination of frustration, lust and rage that is altogether appropriate. Sean seems unsure where to put all of these sharp emotions; Van Der Beek is only slightly more sure, as if his performance is just barely under control.

Brilliantly decadent in their one scene are Faye Dunaway and Swoosie Kurtz as the socialite mothers of Paul and Paul's friend Richard, respectively. Richard is played with fiendish, drunken abandon by newcomer Russell Sams.

There is a divine scene where the screen is split down the middle, one half following Sean and the other half on Lauren. They eventually meet in a hallway, each half of the screen giving us a close-up of the character speaking to the camera, which represents the other person. Then, in a moment that gives movie nerds like me goosebumps, each camera pivots, bringing the two halves together seamlessly into one shot. I doubt it symbolizes anything, but the coolness of it makes it worth the effort.

Another tragic, darkly funny scene has a girl committing suicide while Harry Nilsson's "Without You" plays on the soundtrack. That black, caustic sense of humor is the film's best attribute, though it virtually guarantees its mostly likely audience -- teenagers -- will not enjoy it.

So there is much to admire here, but what does it all add up to? Alas, the danger of dealing with characters who go nowhere and do nothing is that the film may turn out to go nowhere and do nothing right along with them. "The Rules of Attraction" falls into that trap, recounting the death of romance so effectively that, sure enough, the movie is devoid of feeling. Overall, it is like the one-night stands its characters constantly undertake: fun while it lasts, but ultimately unsatisfying.

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originally posted: 07/05/03 20:21:28
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User Comments

8/10/12 Dane Youssef Avary gives us a dire message about the party, the party animals and what it all means. 4 stars
3/11/09 Dane Youssef Much of the movie really works. Some of it doesn't. Superior to most college movies. 4 stars
12/29/07 GARTH WOW...loved it! Thought it was going to be a dumb teen angst film. Ended up impressed! 5 stars
5/26/07 Bitchflaps The sex scenes are about the least erotic thing you'll ever see in your life. Wretched film 1 stars
2/01/07 William Goss Sick, sad, and strangely compelling. 3 stars
2/21/06 Agent Sands I like the darkest of the dark movies, and this is one of those. 5 stars
7/26/05 Hermy It's unique (storytelling, cinematography, characters) and incredible (not pretentious). 5 stars
2/27/05 Danny I realize it's a satire, but it's also just plain mind-numbing. Yawn. 2 stars
11/16/04 gemma leneard the film shows real life issues that many people tend not to notice, start noticing! 5 stars
10/23/04 ODH Good funny flick, lacks a definitive ending though 4 stars
10/01/04 john k my fave movie in quite some time 5 stars
9/26/04 Tor Honolulu I liked Richard...oops, its DICK, not Richard, but he was in it for like four minutes 2 stars
9/22/04 Laura Bustamante This film was a sense of reality 5 stars
8/02/04 Charlene Javier I've seen better episodes of Dawson's Creek. 3 stars
7/18/04 JimmyC Fay Dunaway is the only highlight 1 stars
6/25/04 Xavier I concur, GR. The whole intelligence of it is how ultimately empty each charater is. 4 stars
5/19/04 LIAM JACKSON Rupert the drug dealer: what a fucking nutcase! 5 stars
5/11/04 GR People don't get it. This is a satire, so you don't like any of the characters on purpose. 5 stars
4/24/04 Daniel Harris One of the biggest wastes of time and money ever!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 1 stars
3/24/04 movieguy A great film 5 stars
3/16/04 Daveman It's not even worth seeing James Van Der Beek get the shit kicked out him. 1 stars
2/03/04 Zargo some shit scenes make this less good then it could have been 4 stars
1/05/04 yourmom the film was daring to say the least, it was not original but it was unique 5 stars
11/22/03 TheDude Very Depressing movie. I'll never watch it again. 4 stars
10/28/03 Mark Good movie, snappy editing + direction, black humour, dark. 5 stars
10/04/03 Josh Reel college life 5 stars
10/03/03 Zaggo New and Inventive, reccomend to anyone who is openminded 5 stars
9/27/03 Honolulu Tur I've seen it three times and love Richard's (sorry, DICK'S!!) scene alot 4 stars
9/23/03 Ashton Kutcher's Boy Toy Tries to be earnest, but ends up utterly pretentious. 3 stars
9/15/03 DHite Sucks, and what's with Sossamon's hair? ick! 1 stars
8/10/03 Masacree I dont understand! "The Hulk" is "Worth a look" and this movie "Sucks" !? Its so wrong! 4 stars
5/22/03 Caiphn Entertaining 4 stars
4/28/03 Mike One of the best films of the year - not for everyone, though 5 stars
3/04/03 Matt Scott It is very well technically made, and there are some amusing moments, but the story sucks 3 stars
2/28/03 cw boring and painful 1 stars
2/26/03 saMas despite the criticisms (often valid) this is definitely worth a look 4 stars
2/21/03 A. Kane Like the technical elements but the story was weak at times 3 stars
2/14/03 Andrew Carden Someone Needs To Shut These Kids Up 1 stars
2/10/03 thejames its allright. better then alot of movies but nothing spectatcular. 4 stars
1/22/03 Reini Urban Best teen movie 2002 5 stars
12/13/02 Natalie Stonecipher 2-hour collection of false endings, and the actual ending sucks most of all. Insufferable. 1 stars
11/20/02 Ron20003 Whoa -- this was bad, very bad. 1 stars
10/30/02 noisey30 Terrible. 2 stars
10/19/02 nick2k <3 S.F. damn this was good! its not fair that movies like ballistic & tuxedo get more screens. 5 stars
10/16/02 Deebo go fig you got a review that says the movie sux coock from a kid with the name Dick 5 stars
10/16/02 .Choadushouse. Probably the most influential movie I've ever seen. Absolutely loved it. 5 stars
10/15/02 will that was very interesting 4 stars
10/15/02 Jhonny Funny, original, thought provoking, must see. I hope Avary makes another film soon! 5 stars
10/14/02 Borden It was fun 5 stars
10/14/02 Gene S. Wind who the fuck said this movie was depressing.funny and serious.Laughed my arse off at Fred S 5 stars
10/14/02 Chancey Sugarpants I'm so sick of shit like this. H'wood, pull your head out of your ass & put it to good use. 2 stars
10/13/02 better than the book The “backwards” device grates, but it's a sharp, uncompromising film. 5 stars
10/13/02 Michael Sucks a Fattie Everything I've ever searched for in a movie. Style, substance, pure COOL. And the Beek! 5 stars
10/12/02 David Green Almost impossible to stay awake while watching it! 2 stars
10/12/02 Dick The movie's best line also sums it up...."It sucks Coooooooock" 2 stars
10/12/02 Pat Bateman Excellent 5 stars
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  11-Oct-2002 (R)



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