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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 Brian McKay

"In the Company Of Some Bitch"
2 stars

Director Neil LaBute made an impressive debut back in 1997 with IN THE COMPANY OF MEN, which had the sleazy yet engrossing premise of two co-workers trying to seduce the new deaf girl in their company in order to see who could "nail" her first. While the film left me infuriated (not because the film was bad, but because of the indignities suffered by one character at the hands of another), it was a refreshing and intriguing concept buoyed by strong actors, razor-sharp dialogue, and a crisp screenplay. Now, with THE SHAPE OF THINGS, LaBute returns to familiar territory (albeit with a gender twist) that would have been best left unvisited.

The bitch in question is Evelyn (Rachel Weisz), who is one of these "I live for my art" grad student types. In the middle of a vandalism attempt on a sculpture (as an artistic statement, don't ya know), she is interrupted by nerdy student and part-time museum guard Adam (Paul Rudd). After a brief conversation, he actually musters the courage to ask for her number, and much to his suprise, she gives it to him. The two begin to date, and appear to be in love in no time. And if Evelyn insists on changing Adam's clothes, hair, physical attributes, and personality in the process? Well, that's a small price to pay for some steady trim from a girl who is way out of his league.

But there's trouble in paradise when Evelyn meets Adam's friends, who are engaged to be married. Phillip (Fred Weller) is a cocky asshole, while his fiancee' Jenny (Gretchen Mol) is a conservative nice girl. Each of them has reservations about the marriage, but for different reasons. Phillip doesn't want to be tied down, while Jenny has doubts (and justifiably so) that she can trust Phillip.

Needless to say, it's hate at first sight for Evelyn and Phillip. But when the uncertain Jenny later confesses her reservations about the marriage to Adam, and gives into her impulse to kiss her increasingly hunky friend, word of it gets back to Evelyn. Guess who Evelyn decides to go visit for some make-out payback? (something the average viewer will doubtless see coming a good 20-30 minutes in advance).

But there's a lot more at work here than just petty jealousy and flirtations. Unfortunately, there also isn't much of a reason to care. Not one of these characters is very likable or sympathetic. Adam displays an annoying penchant for endless pop-culture referencing, while Evelyn has "pretentious art-fuck" written all over her from the very first frame. Jenny is something of a bland milquetoast, while Phillip is a grating prick - although he is often the comedic saving grace thanks to Weller's smarmy portrayal of him.

I don't really blame the actors, however, since the script they had to work with is such a stilted mess to begin with. Dialogue is unconvincing, relationships suffer from a complete lack of chemistry or credibility, and even when LaBute finally reveals the big mind-fuck, it's negated by two things: 1) the fact that it's so predictable and 2) the fact that the characters are so unworthy of an emotional investment on the viewer's part. Although there are some nice, angry confrontational scenes in the third act, it's just too little and too late. The only time the film sparks interest is when one character is in another character's face - which, unfortunately, is not nearly often enough.

Sadly, the end result is a rather half-hearted attempt to recreate that visceral chemistry of LaBute's freshman feature. But the shape of things with THE SHAPE OF THINGS is simply thin and flat.

link directly to this review at
originally posted: 06/27/04 11:13:40
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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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