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"The Rules of Attraction"

Directed by Roger Avary.
Written by Roger Avary (co-writer on "Pulp Fiction").  Based on the book by Bret Easton Ellis. 
Starring James Van Der Beek, Shannyn Sossamon and Kip Pardue.
Release Year:  2002 
Review Date:  10/21/02 


After I came out of the movie theater having seen “The Rules of Attraction”, I faced a dilemma.

See, the sum of the parts is so-so.  But, man, some of the parts are classic.  How can I recommend this while giving an honest view of the film?

I want to recommend it because this film has the second-best scene of the 94 films I have seen this year.  (Unless something earth-shattering happens, that Yoda scene at the end of “Star Wars, Episode II” is going to take the cake on that one.)  “The Rules of Attraction” also has some great lines, perfect cameos and reminders of how good it used to be to know hot women in college.  “The Rules of Attraction” is based on a novel by the same guy that wrote “American Psycho.”  “The Rules of Attraction” isn’t quite as twisted as the author’s other work but it still has its moments.  James Van Der Beek (“Dawson’s Creek”) plays Sean Bateman—yep, same last name as the lead in “American Psycho”—a college student that also happens to be THE drug dealer on campus.  He is pretty shallow, hateful, a player and an all-around bastard...until he meets Lauren (Shannyn Sossamon), a fellow student that also shares a pot/coke/booze passion like Sean.  Complicating things further is another student named Paul (Ian Somerhalder), who is in love with Sean and doesn’t realize that Sean’s only interest in Paul is their common interest in smoking weed.

Van Der Beek is really good in this film, and although I have never seen his TV show, I’ve liked him in both this and “Varsity Blues”, but his character this time is just a fucking dirtbag.  He makes this guy likable and you just spend a lot of time soaking him up as he goes through his world.  The random people that show up in this film are all great.  Kate Bosworth, who was in this summer’s “Blue Crush”, is here, as well as Kip Pardue (“Remember the Titans”, “Driven”) as Sean’s buddy Victor.  Fred Savage is in one scene, Eric Stoltz shows up in another...even one of the kids from “American Pie” shows up in two scenes.  Oh, and Swoosie Kurtz?  Faye Dunaway?  Clifton Collins, who played a dealer in “Traffic”, plays a psycho here in “The Rules of Attraction” and even he is way over the top.  Great performances all around.

Too bad that as a whole, the movie is so-so; this is partially because Sossamon’s character is not very well fleshed-out, and as a full third of the film, her sections are clearly the weakest part.  Writer/director Roger Avary utilizes reverse playback techniques four too many times and the so-bad-it’s-good 80s soundtrack—similar to the one used in “American Psycho”—doesn’t have the same cool factor as other indies in the recent past, or even films like this year’s “Cherish.”

But, you won’t go see this if I give it a Matinee, so I need to up the ante here and go one higher.  Besides, the montage sequence with Pardue’s character will simply blow you away, and Stoltz’s only scene has the same “Holy shit, that’s dirty” feel that Chris Elliott’s character had in “There’s Something About Mary.”  Great lines in “The Rules of Attraction” make it a worthwhile venture, and it’s never boring.  Since the film only made about $3 million last weekend, this next week or so might be its last in theaters, so hurry and get out there!

Rating:  $9.00 Show


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Bellview Rating System:

"Opening Weekend":  This is the highest rating a movie can receive.  Reserved for movies that exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development, setting...or Salma Hayek.  Not necessarily in that order. 

"$X.XX Show":  This price changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently, it is the $9.50 Show.  While not technically perfect, this is a movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.  "Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca", but you'll have a great time watching.  The $9.50 Show won't win any Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see "Office Space"). 

"Matinee":  An average movie that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.  Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about yourself.  A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave the theater saying "That wasn't too, did you see that Lakers game last night?" 

"Rental":  This rating indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one."  Mostly forgettable, you couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the video store was out of copies of "Ronin."  If you can, see this movie for free.  This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a half stars." 

"Hard Vice":  This rating is the bottom of the barrel.  A movie that only six other human beings have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen.  A Shannon Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a movie.  Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or "Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!  (Warning:  strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard Vice"-rated movies.)

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The "fine print":
All material by Justin Elliot Bell for SMR/Bellview/ except where noted
© 1999-2009 Justin Elliot Bell This site was last updated 01/08/09