Main cast: James Van Der Beek (Sean Bateman), Shannyn Sossamon (Lauren Hynde), Jessica Biel (Lara Holleran), Ian Somerhalder (Paul Denton), Kate Bosworth (Kelly), Kip Pardue (Victor Johnson), Clifton Collins Jr (Rupert Guest), Thomas Ian Nicholas (Mitchell Allen), Russell Sams (Richard Jared), Faye Dunaway (Eve Denton), Eric Stoltz (Lance Lawson), Fred Savage (Marc), Jay Baruchel (Harry), Clare Kramer (Candice), and Swoosie Kurtz (Mimi Jared)
Director: Roger Avary
If you believe that pretty young people getting humiliated onscreen is what “honest, daring” filmmaking is all about, then this movie is for you. The Rules of Attraction is based on the bitter old queen of misanthropes Brett Easton Ellis’s book of the same name, and as a movie, it occupies the same humiliation genre where the likes of Todd Solondz and Larry Clark reign supreme.
This movie starts out with Lauren, one of the three main characters in this tale of “daring college immorality”, losing her virginity to a drunk stranger who then proceeds to vomit all over her. Another woman passes out upon which Sean Bateman proceeds to bang her with all the passion of a butcher whacking away at slabs of meat. Paul, gay and not loving it, tries to seduce a straight guy by plying the latter with joint, only to be roughed up and spat at. Thus the whole humiliation of all three characters are set, and the movie then proceeds to rewind itself and tells us what happens the days before to bring upon the grand climax we’ve witnessed in the opening scenes.
Lauren loves Victor who doesn’t care. Sean loves Lauren. Paul just wants to get laid – desperately. In the cornucopia of humiliation, we also get a long, unnecessary scene of a young girl’s death throes after she has slashed her wrist in the bathtub, the camera focusing on her face in slow, prolonged, and misguided determination. And I wonder: is this where we are today? Do we call such voyeuristic and sadistic enjoyment of an onscreen character’s agony “daring and honest cinema”? Am I supposed to revel in the characters’ humiliation and pain instead of caring even a little for them?
Maybe I’m just old-fashioned or maybe I’m out of touch with what’s hip and cool in indie cinemas today, but The Rules of Attraction just makes me feel sorry for the young cast. They must believe that they are really making breakthroughs by acting in this movie. But cussing non-stop and engaging in fake sex that has all the eroticism of a bad hangover is far from proving one’s credibility as an artist – it’s more like an indication of how desperate these young people are that they let themselves be manipulated by exploitative hacks like Roger Avary.
Oh, and the movie ends in mid-sentence, just like the book. Maybe someone will call that “innovative”. I call that “being pretentious at my expense, give me my money back!”
But if there is some saving grace to this train wreck, Ian Somerhalder does look good in his tighties and his Paul is a beautifully amoral guy. Then again, I probably like him because Paul is the only guy with his dignity still somewhat intact by the end of the movie. But the sight of James Van Der Beek’s talent-free snarling and his abnormally large forehead glistening with sweat as he humps at the camera is such a horrifying image that Mr Somerhalder’s near naked dancing to George Michael’s Faith is very little consolation.
Last one out turn off the lights. I have to go take a shower to wash off the dirt that clung from watching this badly done misfire at being hip and cool.