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RULES OF ATTRACTION

Review by Gordon Justesen

Stars: James Van Der Beek, Shannyn Sossamon, Kip Pardue, Ian Somerhalder, Jessica Biel, Clifton Collins Jr., Kate Bosworth
Director: Roger Avary
Audio: Dolby Surround
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 1.85:1
Studio: Lions Gate
Features: See Review
Length: 110 Minutes
Release Date: February 18, 2003

"No one ever really knows anyone else. You're never going to know me. Figure it out. Deal with it."

Film ***

The stories of novelist Bret Easton Ellis are usually depictions of that of decadence and totally bizarre, and The Rules of Attraction is no exception, in fact, itís probably the most strange of any of his writings, which also happen to include American Psycho and Less Than Zero. The film plays more like American Psycho: The Early Years, though none of the characters are truly of a homicidal nature, but the setting, which is that of a liberal arts college, seems like the type of campus that Patrick Bateman may have attended. Apart from that, I donít think Iíve seen a single movie have more fun toying with its story narrative since Memento. Once itís realized that the writer and director is Roger Avary, who was Quentin Tarantinoís writing cohort on Pulp Fiction, one can understand why several scenes are out of order, and shot backwards as well. The film adds up to thoroughly engaging dark comedy, which can be enjoyed as long as you donít mind that there isnít a particularly likeable character.

Like Memento, the movie begins at the end, though it jumps back to the beginning following the title and credits. In this opening sequence, which takes place at The End of the World Party, we do get introduced to the three key characters. Thereís Sean Bateman (James Van Der Beek), who is linked to the Bateman in American Psycho, a campus drug pusher. Sean is the kind of guy a woman would probably despise, as he goes from party to party searching for an easy one-night-stand. He thinks of himself as a vampire, searching for the nightly prey. But actually, Sean has been getting love letters from a secret admirer. Thereís Lauren (Shannyn Sossamon), a precocious student at the college, who Sean hopes is the one sending the love letters, since he finds her somewhat attractive. Lauren, however, has an undying crush for a guy named Victor (Kip Pardue), who is currently vacationing in Europe. Finally, thereís Paul (Ian Somerhalder), who used to date Lauren but is now in touch with his gay side, as he finds himself attracted to Sean.

From a visual standpoint, The Rules of Attraction is a striking piece of work. Take for example a key moment in the film, which is shot in split screen format (a favorite technique of mine). It captures the moments leading up to Sean and Laurenís very first encounter. They bump into each other in a hallway of one of the school buildings, their faces on both sides of the split frame, which then concludes in a revealing shot that is quite astonishing. Another incredible sequence is a frenetically filmed sequence that chronicles Victorís excess-induced trip to Europe, which includes a nearly undecipherable voice over. I also found an early scene with Seanís paranoid drug boss, Rupert (Clifton Collins, Jr.), to be an absolute laugh riot.

This is Avaryís second directorial effort. His first was the heist flick Killing Zoe, which I had mixed feelings on. With The Rules of Attraction, Avary has very much come into his own as a director, especially that of a visually gifted filmmaker. The characters are very much Tarantino-inspired, as they are self-absorbed lowlifes, only they happen to be somewhat younger than usual, but are nevertheless engaged in decadent behavior, and constantly under the influence of drugs and alcohol. In other words, it makes for intriguing and unique characters.

The Rules of Attraction is an inventive piece of film that is both incredibly dark and funny, like you would expect from a disciple of Mr. Tarantinoís. Fans of Pulp Fiction and American Psycho should definitely take notice.

Video ****

Lions Gate has fashioned up one of their boldest looking discs to date. As mentioned, the movie is visually engaging, and the anamorphic transfer does the film absolute justice. Image quality is endlessly sharply rendered, complete with the most natural use of colors. The presentation soars in enhancing the look of an already eye-popping film.

Audio ***1/2

For a 2.0 track, this is certainly nothing short of incredible and impressive. Lions Gateís audio transfer makes good use of the set pieces. There are many scenes of college parties, which offer good dynamic range for the crowd noise. The sound quality which accompanies the striking filming techniques of the movie provides to be one of the more pleasant DVD surprises of recent memory.

Features ***1/2

Some superb kicks here, which includes five commentary tracks, which are labeled the ďRevolving DoorĒ commentaries. Each commentary track includes various cast and crew members, as well as some surprise guests who werenít even in the movie. Iíll leave you to discover them. Also featured is a nice ďAnatomy of a SceneĒ featurette which focuses on the split screen sequence, and trailers, TV and soundtrack spots.

Summary:

The Rules of Attraction will no doubt have a love it or hate it effect on whoever watches it, but I found it to be a blast of an experience, and think those who are fans of films of this sort should check it out.