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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 Rob Gonsalves

"The most fun movie about collegiate despair ever made."
5 stars

You will see very few -- probably no -- movies this year that play with the film medium as joyfully, and with as much reckless elegance, as 'The Rules of Attraction.' I want this movie on DVD tomorrow so I can watch it on a loop over and over; I loved every jagged, unstable minute of it even when a headache that kicked in about halfway through (not induced by the movie) forced me to squint through much of the proceedings.

Of course, you need to realize two things going in: There's no story, and there are no characters you'd find interesting for more than thirty seconds in real life. That's par for the course with material that originated from Bret Easton Ellis, the zombie Dostoyevsky of the Brat Pack. But writer-director Roger Avary -- like Mary Harron, who worked similar magic with Ellis' American Psycho two years ago -- performs a dazzling feat of alchemy on the base metals of Ellis' unreadable 1987 novel.

The action is largely confined to debauchery and unrequited yearning, and unfolds mostly on and around the campus of Camden College, where the education seems to be solely the sexual variety (and varieties), and lessons are learned in bedrooms rather than classrooms. But it's not all lust: mass quantities of drugs and alcohol are consumed before, after, and during the sex, and occasionally an unselfish human emotion does peek through the fog before dying of loneliness. But mainly we're watching Sean (James Van Der Beek), who has the hots for Lauren (Shannyn Sossamon), who has the hots for Victor (Kip Pardue) .... Ellis and Avary can expound on the satirical weight of this stuff all they want, but this is essentially a postmodern Archie comic -- Sean even has a Jughead in the form of the bisexual Paul (Ian Somerhalder), who has the hots for him -- and Avary rightly treats it as such.

I was not among the admirers of Avary's first film, 1994's self-consciously vicious Killing Zoe. It was clear to me that Avary had talent (he did have a hand in writing Pulp Fiction, after all), but Killing Zoe seemed too, well, Tarantino-esque; I wondered if Avary had a voice of his own. Taking off from Ellis' monotone, Avary spreads his wings and sings. To confuse the Dawson's Creek fans in the audience, Avary runs what seems like half the first reel backwards, doubling back to show the same party three different ways. A split-screen scene between Sean and Lauren ends with the neatest camera trick I've seen in a movie since the forced perspective in The Fellowship of the Ring. Avary also gives us a high-speed condensed version of Victor's drugs-and-sex-fueled trip through Europe; the sequence is a mini-essay on the maxim "Brevity is the soul of wit." On one level, The Rules of Attraction is brilliant film-geek eye candy, borrowing liberally from the greats (Kubrick, Scorsese) to tell a story fundamentally not worth telling.

So why see it? Well, aside from Avary's brand of rock and roll (by the way, the film has some of the most diabolically funny music cues ever, ranging from "Faith" to "Afternoon Delight"), there's the acting; Van Der Beek is several continents removed from the Creek here, a lackadaisical sadist who shrugs between sensations, and Shannyn Sossamon, an empty pixie in most other roles, bruises and blossoms here as a self-hating virgin whose psyche is as snarled as her hair. Special mention must also go to Faye Dunaway and Swoosie Kurtz as out-of-it pill-popping matrons, Clifton Collins Jr. as a coked-up dealer who uses a certain 12-letter word as every part of speech, and the drop-dead hilarious Russell Sams as Paul's gay buddy Richard, who prefers to be called Dick. Sams' dinner chat with the mortified Dunaway and Kurtz scales the heights of Jim Carrey-esque mania; it's the film's highlight.

So: masterfully directed, well-acted, and dead in the water dramatically and emotionally. Is this a recommendation? Hell, yes: Think of how many movies lately have been badly directed and acted and dramatically/emotionally stunted. This one has Eric Stoltz as a leering Irish professor, and Fred Savage tootling on his clarinet while riding a heroin high, and a student walking backwards through the snow, erasing his footprints as the snow flutters upward.

And by example and without editorializing, 'The Rules of Attraction' also manages to comment on the follies of excess and instant gratification. Speaking of the latter: I'll have that DVD now, please.

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originally posted: 12/31/06 04:02:03
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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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