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Overall Rating

Awesome: 29.87%
Worth A Look44.16%
Average: 5.19%
Pretty Bad: 11.69%
Total Crap: 9.09%

6 reviews, 41 user ratings

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Shape of Things, The
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by Erik Childress

"If You Love Me, You'll Let Me Change You. Or Is It The Other Way Around?"
5 stars

The Shape of Things may be the best romantic comedy in years. Of course it comes from writer/director Neil LaBute who played a cruel dating game on a deaf woman with In the Company of Men and described one character's best sexual experience as raping a male gym student in Your Friends and Neighbors. Intense emotional moments captured on film, much like the game of love itself. The Shape of Things is a far lighter film as far as I can tell, but everything depends on your point of view much like the four characters in which it centers itself. To make love work, you have to see and listen and be careful not to say the wrong thing at the wrong time. I love this movie so much that I'll be careful not to make that mistake.

When Adam met Evelyn, it was at the museum where he moonlights as a security guard. She catches his eye when she invades the ropes of a naked statue that's been censored by the decency police of the community. As an art student, Evelyn (Rachel Weisz) is naturally offended herself and plans to give the sculpture its masculinity back. Adam (Paul Rudd) is a pure opposite, shy and unsure of himself with the kind of doughy features that could use a good pair of hands and a spindle.

Evelyn agrees to go out with Adam and soon they are a couple. Amazing how the love of a good woman can change a man; changes noticed by Adam's ex-roommate, Philip (Frederick Weller) and his fiance, Jenny (Gretchen Mol). The only fly-in-the-ointment of their relationship is Evelyn's unwavering insistence on Adam having confidence in himself. She never wants him to ask why a beautiful woman like her would want to date a societal-deemed dork. She is determined to bring about that self-assurance and he is determined to please her any which way because he's in love.

What are the motivations behind love though? And who is in the position to judge another's actions unless they can crawl around in their skin? Adam's every move on this ever-changing chessboard will be questioned by his friends. Philip is a self-absorbed preppie who gets into an argument with Evelyn during the foursome's first evening out. He's then convinced that she's all wrong for Adam, but is that sincerity or just reactive to the contempt he feels towards her. Then there's the sweet Jenny, who was the friendly classmate that Adam always had a crush on but was too afraid to act. Now that he's taken, is she taking an interest because she realized what she missed out on or because Adam is losing weight and looking better than ever?

Weisz and Rudd have never been better than they are here. After recently playing the femme fatale part in the ironically-named Confidence, Weisz has the audience believing a far greater range of emotions by the time you are ready to unglue yourself during the end credits. Even when Weisz's Evelyn makes one last dubious request of her man, one that most would refuse on sight, you have to wonder if the demand is so unreasonable considering the turn of events and the treatment Adam's received on both sides of the equation. Rudd's performance hence becomes one of extraordinary subtlety. Instead of crutching onto what could have been just a makeup peel, Rudd transforms Adam with his voice and mannerisms so fluently that never once during the film did I ever think the word "makeup."

The Shape of Things is an amazing piece of writing and one that will provoke laughs, discussion and anger. The questions posed and more will never escape your attention as LaBute pulls the strings on their universe. Who you root for and eventually side with may reveal more than you care to admit about your own personality and also your ability to read others in future encounters. Like a feminist take on Alfred Hitchcock's "Vertigo" theme of "if you love me, you'll let me change you", The Shape of Things takes us down that road and leaves us wondering if it was all for the better anyway. After all, there's nothing wrong with believing in yourself and eating a salad occasionally. Isn't love a cosmic force so strong that you'll do anything not to lose as long as you believe the other is having exactly the same feeling? The less you know, maybe the happier you’ll be.

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originally posted: 05/17/03 00:56:25
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2003 Sundance Film Festival. For more in the 2003 Sundance Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

5/25/12 Dane Youssef A photographed play, yes. But everything just works. LaBute's work is painfully relevant. 5 stars
9/17/10 Stephanie Such a "different" movie. Can't decide if I liked it or not. Made me sad for humanity. 4 stars
3/22/09 Dane Youssef LaBute shows us again with what's wrong with all mankind. Why do we keep giving him fodder? 5 stars
12/19/06 Neil As this is art - and not entertainment, any critical commentary will alas, not be art. 5 stars
8/17/06 William Goss Well-acted, esp. Weisz & Rudd, but still feels like a play. Twist comes as no big surprise. 3 stars
7/26/06 drydock54321 it's different and original 4 stars
6/19/06 anitamich interesting and unpredictable 4 stars
9/26/05 a. kurlovs better than "in the company of men" in every respect. rachel weisz is brilliant! 5 stars
8/18/05 ES I would have clocked that bitch in the mouth 3 stars
6/20/05 Steve Newman Its a good film to watch - you knew something was up!! 4 stars
3/27/05 john h. wallace totoally surprised by's inhumanity to man.sos....acting superb 4 stars
3/19/05 dbx wow. this sucked. enormous disappointment after "Comp. of Men". 1 stars
9/26/04 Tor Honolulu Only when he said F*** YOU, YOU C*** did I love this, but that lasted only two seconds 1 stars
8/29/04 random* writing iffy at times, Mol needs to stop. Now. Please. 3 stars
7/19/04 axe pissed me off knowing LaBute would never allow the romantic resolution yet expects shock 2 stars
7/08/04 Denise Duspiva He was sweet couldn't stand her 4 stars
6/26/04 y2mckay Trite and stilted, with a predictable gender twist on "Company of Men" 2 stars
5/24/04 Butterbean I loved "In Company of Men". But I grew impatient with this one and walked out the theater. 1 stars
3/24/04 Reini Urban I just love this kind of analytical drama, esp. since its cynical, true and fun. 5 stars
1/03/04 Faith Rachel Weisz stole the show, again. 4 stars
12/15/03 Toni Shows us the worst and the worst of ourselves. Brilliantly written. 5 stars
12/12/03 Kooler embarrassingly pretensious, badly acted, saw the ending coming from the opening scene. 1 stars
10/29/03 ROSI Evelyn is cold and some may say evil...i think it is great 4 stars
9/27/03 surlybird hard, cruel, great 5 stars
7/28/03 Jana Do we really want to watch this, unless we enjoy pain? 4 stars
5/28/03 mrcowen this movie sucks! too much dialogue and bad acting. It was painful. 1 stars
5/27/03 Zaki Hi, I'm Zaki, and Rachel Weisz is the SHIT! 4 stars
5/23/03 brainiac68 interesting & emotionally engaging -- ultimately confounding but definitely worthwhile 4 stars
5/20/03 Troy no 1 stars
5/19/03 Andrew Carden Slow Beginning, but The Last Hour Is Amazing. Weisz Gives An Oscar-Worthy Performance. 4 stars
5/14/03 George Jung This is just like "The Big Kahuna"; a play that doesn't respect the movie-making process. 3 stars
5/14/03 Jin fascinating and intriguing. Acting was first-rate. 4 stars
5/10/03 NYC fan Intelligent, thought-provoking, interesting, true, a downer 4 stars
5/10/03 Worse Than You! best FILM of the year!!!!!! fascinating conclusion 5 stars
5/10/03 Ahmed Badran Good movie Good actor performance, cinematography ok 4 stars
5/10/03 Howard Neil LaBute best work since in The Company of Men 5 stars
5/08/03 Claudette Parker This movie dragged on forever. My friend got up halfway and actually left. I should have. 2 stars
4/01/03 kc great play, great movie!! 5 stars
1/23/03 Sean I liked it. 4 stars
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Directed by
  Neil LaBute

Written by
  Neil LaBute

  Paul Rudd
  Rachel Weisz
  Gretchen Mol
  Fred Weller

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