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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 Chris Parry

"LaBute is back... and so is the 'C' word."
5 stars

SCREENED AT THE 2003 SUNDANCE FILM FESTIVAL: Most fans of Neil LaBute totally dig his aggressive digging-into-the-bowels-of-humanity style of writing and directing. He doesn’t tie up an ending with a pink ribbon, instead he finishes proceedings with an abrupt, hardcore, realistic and totally adrenaline-satisfying manner. The Company of Men was LaBute’s first, a nasty story that didn’t pull a punch and made Aaron Eckhart a recognizable name. His follow-up, Your Friends and Neighbors, allowed Jason Patric to blow holes in the silver screen with his disturbing tales of teenage sodomy and a well-places curse word that floored many. Nurse Betty gave Renee Zellweger the first of her many awards and allowed Chris Rock the chance to scalp a white man. And then there was Possession. The hundred or so people that saw that movie surely yelled ‘what the hell’ in unison afterwards, but with The Shape of Things, LaBute bluffs the audience completely that what they’re looking at is a vanilla-flavored rom-com, when in actual fact the guy is just waiting to pull a big nasty, vicious, ass-kicking ace out of his sleeve.

The Shape of Things is essentially Pygmalion with a whole new twist. Paul Rudd is a geeky lumberjacket-wearing student who sidelines as an art gallery security guard. When he encounters an attractive anarchist artist (Rachel Weisz) who is set to deface a statue with spray paint, the two start a conversation and find they have a little in common. Just a little, but enough for Rudd to ask his new friend out on a date. To his surprise (and ours), she agrees, and next thing you know they’re dating. Rudd’s friends (Fred Weller and Gretchen Mol) can’t figure out the attraction, and truth be told he finds it a little bizarre himself – she’s the polar opposite of him socially, intellectually and physically. Not that Weisz’s character is going to allow her man to get set in his ways - the longer things go, the more she ‘improves’ him, changing his clothing, his hair, even talking the guy into a nose job. As Rudd starts to become cooler and cuter, his teenage crush (Mol) starts to become interested in him, despite the fact she’s engaged to be married. Will our hero choose his conniving girlfriend over his age-old friends who want their buddy back?

That’s not really the point. What the point is I can’t tell you. Frankly, you shouldn’t want to hear it anyway since The Shape of Things is not at all what it seems and most certainly viewed best without any advance knowledge. The performances are awesome – Rudd is flawless, Weisz likewise, and even Gretchen Mol, who is usually so wooden she’ll give you splinters if you shake her hand, doesn’t disappoint as the precious preppie that falls for the new Rudd.

But the real star here is LaBute. He twists the audience in such a way that will only become obvious to you when the film is over, and when it is over, you quite honestly won’t be able to stop talking about what just happened. This movie is a mind-fuck of the highest order, but it’s not until it’s over that you even know it. In fact, this film is a great lesson in why it’s dumb to walk out of a movie - sometimes the sting is in the tail of the tale.

link directly to this review at
originally posted: 01/21/03 13:13:24
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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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