The Rules of Attraction
The Rules of Attraction
Review By: Staff
Bret Easton Ellis is one of those authors whose works defy conventional narrative form, making film adaptations of them difficult to pull off. Roger Avary's adaptation of Rules of Attraction, now available on DVD, succeeds in capturing some of the vapidity and artificiality of Ellis's characters, but ultimately waters the plot down and never actualizes some of the novel's biggest themes.
The film revolves around three students (and two important tangential characters) at Camden College in New England. Paul is interested in Sean, who's attracted to Lauren, and Lauren likes Sean but is really saving herself for Victor, and Victor doesn't even know who she is. The film's opening sequence follows the characters one after the other as they all seek out a good time at the same party. The film plays forward at first but suddenly stops and rolls backward, switching focus to a new character before resuming forward play. The opening sequence works like a hook, grabbing our attention and introducing us to the simultaneousness of the three characters' stories. It is an extremely strong start, but the rest of the film ultimately does not live up to it.
Rules of Attraction follows a circular path, beginning and ending at the same point in time. Following the first sequence, the opening credits roll as we watch the seasons play out in reverse"”rising snow gives way to fallen leaves that reconstruct themselves and return to their parent trees. The technique is effective during the credits just as it was in the opening sequence, but when it is employed later, it has little impact and seems present only as eye candy.
Roger Avary uses voiceovers to bring the novel's first person narratives to the screen. This is almost inescapable with Ellis as his works generally contain extensive monologue-like passages. Ellis characters are difficult to play because the characters themselves are often acting or have artificial/superficial personality traits. The three main players (Van Der Beek, Sossamon, and Halderman) are fairly strong, but their performances are inconsistent, uneven. When Van Der Beek hits the mark, though, he can really make your skin crawl. Jessica Biel and Kip Pardue are actually much stronger overall in their supporting roles as Lara and Victor. Faye Dunaway and Swoosie Kurtz outshine their junior costars in two bit parts that I wish had been larger. Nothing is worse than watching an actor play drunk poorly, and that is all I have to say about Russell Sams as Dick. Another performance gone awry is Clifton Collins Jr. as Rupert. No audience wants to watch an actor try, and that's all Collins seems to be capable of here.
The film can't decide what decade it takes place in. Certain
There are a variety of commentary tracks to choose from on the DVD. The groupings of people who give commentary on the same track seem arbitrarily thrown together. There is even a commentary track by Carrot Top. I'm not sure why, and I don't want to know why. The special features on the disc are lame. There are three different trailers, an advertisement for Bret Easton Ellis's other books, and a look-how-hip-we-are advertisement for the movie's soundtrack.
The only feature actually worth mentioning is the inclusion of Anatomy of a Scene. The split-screen meeting of Lauren and Sean is the scene dissected here, and I was surprised when Avary says that he thought he was doing something that hadn't been done before with split-screen: using it to show the distance between two people rather than to show their similarities or parallels. Maybe Avary missed Requiem for a Dream, but his use of split-screen in Rules smacks of the Jennifer Connolly/Jared Leto bedroom scene in Requiem, and it isn't nearly as poignant.
Better luck with Glamorama, Roger.
Movie Grade: B-
DVD Grade B
Overall Grade: B