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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 Preston Jones

"College in Hell"
4 stars

Hey kids, look—it’s the WB on drugs! Dawson’s drinking heavily and shagging coeds at a frantic clip and Mary Camden’s snorting coke and participating in football team orgies! In what seems like a concerted effort to shatter their squeaky clean teen TV images, both James Van Der Beek and Jessica Biel join a talented cast of twenty-something thespians, including the luminous Shannyn Sossamon, in the vicious satire The Rules of Attraction, based on the Bret Easton Ellis novel of the same name.

Satire’s a tricky tightrope to walk in any medium. Lean too far one way and you’ve got farce, too far the other way and you’ve got tragedy on your hands. Director Stanley Kubrick was one of the last great film directors to convincingly toe the line when it came to satire, and modern day novelists like Ellis and Chuck Palahniuk, whose near-cinematic novels fit neatly into the satire mold.
Ellis’s works have been adapted by Hollywood during the last few years, each meeting with varying degrees of success. 1987’s Less Than Zero, a look at drugged out California teens, has been relegated to cult status; 2000’s highly controversial black comedy American Psycho ended up generating more buzz than box office and now the latest in the parade of sick and twisted Ellis adaptations—writer/director Roger Avary’s take on The Rules of Attraction.
Avary, best known for co-writing Pulp Fiction and writing/directing the unsettling Killing Zoe, hyper-stylizes Attraction’s narrative, employing nearly every film-school trick in the book (witness the nifty forward/reverse technique during the film’s opening moments) while maintaining a cold humanity and antiseptic attitude towards the film’s protagonists.
Set in a nonspecific decade at Camden College, a liberal arts college on the East coast, The Rules of Attraction follows the exploits of narcissistic ladies man Sean Bateman (Van Der Beek), relatively innocent Lauren Hynde (Sossamon), unabashed flirt Lara Holleran (Biel) and newly bisexual Paul Denton (Ian Somerhalder) during the course of a school year. None of these folks have any really desirable character traits—good times for them consist of drinking, drugging and screwing whatever happens to be handy.
Things take an interesting turn when Sean begins receiving anonymous love notes from an admirer; he credits them to Lauren, who’s actually pining for Victor Johnson (Kip Pardue), who’s studying abroad—his warp-speed European highlight reel is one of the movie’s hilarious high points—when in fact, the notes could be coming from Paul, who develops a crush on the resolutely hetero Sean. Add to this the combustible sexuality and bitchiness of Lara and you’ve got one volatile bunch.
The Rules of Attraction, for all its strengths, does strike a few false notes as it unspools. Suicide is played for both pathos and laughs, rendering a deeply disturbing suicide scene—one of the film’s most haunting sequences—more or less irrelevant a few frames later. It’s this double standard that cheapens the dramatic impact of more than one of the film’s set pieces.
The acting is superb; all of the principals attack the material ferociously, erasing all preconceived notions. Even the lesser roles are filled with top-notch talent—Fred Savage has a hysterical cameo as Marc, a stoned student who can’t quite connect the dots of a sentence and while Clifton Collins Jr.’s amped-up drug dealer Rupert is almost too much at times, but he manages to convey menace beneath the ‘hood posturing.
Avary’s writing and direction are uniformly strong; he gives his cast some choice moments that illuminate the emptiness felt by the disaffected youth of Camden College. While his lens maybe judges the characters more harshly than they deserve, Avary does plumb the depths of collegiate hedonism and uncover some unpleasant truths.

A night on the warm, fuzzy WB network The Rules of Attraction isn’t, but it is one of the more complex, relentlessly thought-provoking releases this year. A definite don’t miss.

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originally posted: 11/20/02 12:36:24
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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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