*** Official "THE RULES OF ATTRACTION" Review Thread

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by Robert Crawford, Oct 12, 2002.

  1. Robert Crawford

    Robert Crawford Moderator

    Dec 9, 1998
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    This thread is now the Official Review Thread for "The Rules of Attraction". Please post all HTF member reviews in this thread.
    Any other comments, links to other reviews, or discussion items will be deleted from this thread without warning!
    If you need to discuss those type of issues then I have designated an Official Discussion Thread.
  2. Mark Palermo

    Mark Palermo Second Unit

    Jun 28, 2000
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    The most frustrating movie of the year is The Rules of Attraction, and it has nothing to do with its purported edginess. I can’t recall another film that hops in-between "horrible" and "very good" so pervasively. Watching Roger Avary’s latest is a love/hate experience in and of itself, usually reaching an opposite qualitative extreme every five minutes.

    As an adaptation of a Bret Easton Ellis novel, there’s certainly more depth to this satire than Mary Harron’s one-note "yuppies are bad" polemic American Psycho. This time we’re locked in the world of spoiled white college kids and, at the picture’s most exhilarating, Avary presents it as a decadent power struggle worthy of Jean Renoir.

    Trading Ellis’s dryly observant prose for loud style, the story mostly weaves in and out of the heads of the drug dealing self-described emotional vampire Sean Bateman (James Van Der Beek), celibate Lauren (Shannyn Sossaman), and her bisexual ex-boyfriend Paul (Ian Somerhalder). Though I don’t buy that girls who care about their virginity snort coke, Lauren is the only character who I didn’t repeatedly feel like punching in the head. Nevertheless, Avary resists the wrongheaded desire to make their cruelty endearing. Lauren displays mild interest in Sean, who struggles to see her as more than a potential sexual conquest. Meanwhile, Sean uses Paul’s infatuation with him as an excuse to raid his CD collection and smoke cloves for free in his dorm room, brushing off any concern Paul has with his stock expression, "Rock ‘n’ roll." Tensions escalate toward a grueling bathtub scene (trust me, it ain’t sexy) which evokes a change in our perception, as characters previously understood as self-obsessed thrill-seekers are revealed as self-loathing masochists.

    From a technical standpoint, Avary (Quentin Tarantino’s co-writer on Pulp Fiction) has crafted a virtuoso experience. Employing a motif of playing film in reverse, he conveys his subjects’ stunted growth and faceless sexual compulsions as the product of extreme loneliness -- as if their self-destruction is born from a desire to move backward into the womb. This need to disconnect also manifests in the most innovative uses of the split-screen technique I’ve seen since Brian De Palma’s Sisters (1973). Even more memorable is an extraordinarily clever 100-mile-a-minute travelogue near the end.

    This ship is unfortunately padded so thickly that it nearly sinks. Avary injects massive amounts of completely useless scenes, most of which are repugnant even when considered out of context. His frequent habit of equating heartlessness with humour (one byproduct of the Tarantino era I’d hoped we’d moved beyond), results in moments as stupid as when several friends are yelling for help for their overdosed companion in the emergency room, and an ambivalent nurse responds, "I’m on my lunchbreak." Not funny. There’s also an obnoxious restaurant scene which goes on forever, and some badly acted moments with Sean’s drug supplier that seem like they belong in a different movie altogether. And Avary’s presentation of gays -- while obviously satiric -- is so stereotypically tired, it’s the kind of lameness you’d expect from Will & Grace.

    So is The Rules of Attraction worth seeing? Absolutely, yes. That it’s amassed mainly venomous reviews -- many written by critics who approve of Larry Clarke’s deadening (and pointless) exploitations of youthful stupidity -- is more proof of a cultural disinterest in cinema that’s actually cinematic. Yes, it is often worse than the worst films of recent memory. But why deny that there’s about an hour of inspired greatness in it as well? When it works, The Rules of Attraction restores faith in movies’ ability to startle and excite.
  3. Patrick Sun

    Patrick Sun Moderator

    Jun 30, 1999
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    When you don't care about the characters who don't really care, why do a movie? This film starts and stops, sputters and accelerates. It doesn't know what it is or what it wants to be. Maybe it's a metaphor for the characters themselves, but it's an unrewarding viewing experience. The characters are very much the one-note "lost at college" type of characters.

    Sure, there are some clever sequences, but they don't really serve the tie the narrative together all that well. There are scenes that are so vain to watch, they should have been relegated to the deleted scene section of its impending DVD release.

    I can't really recommend this film, even to fans of any of the principal actors involved.

    I give it 1.75 stars, or a grade of C-.
  4. Christopher Carr

    Christopher Carr Stunt Coordinator

    Jun 25, 2000
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    I hate to say it (I really do) but this is one of my favorite movies of the year (in fact in my top 5).

    I really do hate to say it is my favorite movies because while I love it so much I hate it all the same. It is one of the most depressing stories of love between anyone that I have seen in a long time. The tragedy comes through the relationships of the characters rather than the characters. They are greedy people just looking for a good time, while at the same time can harm each other emotionally. I hated the characters but couldn't resist them either.

    I could compare this to a Shakespeare tragedy- No not an actual work of art, but what one goes through with a Shakespeare tragedy. In his plays Shakespeare sets up characters which the audience can relate to and brings them through a life which suddenly leads horribly wrong and the audience feels pity for them. Through that pity the audience fears their own life- if this could happen to a certain character...couldn't it happen to us? After seeing Rules of Attraction I was majorly depressed. I felt horrible for the characters because all they wanted was what they felt was love. Being in relationships which really meant nothing in the end, I felt horrible thinking "well will I ever find love?" I believe it was doing it's job making me feel horrible as a tragic dark comedy (and it was dark), as my friend also expressed she felt depressed.

    It may be cruel and mean but it is compelling to watch the lives of others interact through lies, greed and love.

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