The incredibly spoiled and overprivileged students of Camden College are a backdrop for an unusual love triangle between a drug dealer, a virgin and a bisexual classmate.
by Dane Youssef
"IF THIS IS THE COLLEGE EXPERIENCE... CONSIDER TRADE SCHOOL"
Roger Avary's "The Rules Of Attraction" is a look at the "experimentation" of college life. Alcoholism, drug abuse, suicide and sexual escapades.
That's not to say that the movie is all about--oh wait, it pretty much is. There are a few moments of outside "experimentation," but it is mostly an orgy party. This is the kind of film Avary is best at. He showed this with his style and energy in movies like "Killing Zoe" and "Pulp Fiction." He's been gone for about a decade working on this and has claimed that the "unfilmable" novels by Brett Eastern Ellis ("American Psycho" and "Less Than Zero") had been horrid adaptations because they strip EllisÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s storytelling style (told through accounts of multiple narrators giving their fuzzy testimonies).
In this new film, Avary tries to get that confused feeling down with different style techniques: rewind, fast-foreword, split-screen and multiple narratives.
It sometimes works and it sometimes doesn't. Perhaps this movie directed more like Christopher Nolan's "Following" and "Memento" and Steven Soderberg's "Full Frontal" instead of Fisher Steven's "Just A Kiss."
The performances are pretty strong, the best from James Van Der Beek ("Dawson's Creek," "Varsity Blues") playing the lecherous and sexually and neurotically charged Sean who's pastimes include anonymous sex and the use of every narcotic known to man. He has a creepy glare made famous from most Stanley Kubrick films and a sardonic and uncaring nature. An "emotional vampire" he calls himself.
Shannyn Sossamon plays a college student who has eyes for her boyfriend, Victor (Kip Pardue) and is saving her virginity for him. She looks at gruesome books about STD's and other vaginal diseases to keep herself out of having sex.
What Lauren doesn't know is that Victor is in Europe and perhaps having sex with with the entire Continent. He narrates a capsule summary of his incredible escapades and is one of the best sequences in the movie.
Poor Lauren. She plans to lose her virginity to Victor, but as we see in the movie in the opening, that doesn't quite pan out.
Ian Somerhalder, model and all-around pretty boy plays the now openly-gay Paul who has eyes for Sean and tries to get him to succumb to his side. In the original novel by Ellis, Sean is a bisexual who sleeps with Paul. In the film, the two are seen kissing and making out in Sean's room. But is it real or is it all in Paul's head? The split-screen makes it all so confusing.
Jessica Biel ("7th Heaven") plays Laura's promiscuous roommate who's libido is running non-stop and drug intake is piling up. She gets a nosebleed ("rusty pipes") and sleeps with the men important to Lauren.
Eric Stoltz, Faye Dunaway and Swoozie Kurtz play the only adults in the movie who are really no better than the kids. A bit of Mr. Avary's creative license kicks in here (Stoltz's foppish teacher, Mr. Lawson) was not in the original novel. He states he cannot deflower Ms. Hyde because he is married with children and she is an undergraduate.
But oral doesn't count, right Mr. President?
Avary's technique sometimes works with the opening's bungee-jumping narrative, as well as a split-screen shot approach showing how two characters on completely different paths walking along and minding their own business meet up at the same location. And once a character's shades come off, the shot completes--indicating love at first sight. Really nice, Rog.
And the back-packing trip to Europe with the mysterious Victor who hosts and stars in this orgy of FF>. Some characters are kinda fun, but it feels too much like Avary is indulging himself too much to dig a little deeper into these characters.
In Ellis'es book, they let us get inside the characters. Right into their heads in a way we did in "Memento." A more style like "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas" and insider feel like "Memento" I think would have been a better approach.
Still, Avary is a stylist first and foremost. He gave "PF" and "KZ" it's hyper-kinetic juice. So it's not a bad movie, not at all.
Still, it is commendable, if not a lot more. For a great inside feel of these characters heads, read EllisÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s novel. For a wicked orgy-rush film with a college backdrop, check out Avary's film.
"Rules of Attraction" is worth a look any way you cut it.
By the way, last I heard Avary was working on... Oh yeah, another Ellis novel.
Anyone out there know what Avary is up to now?
by Dane Youssef