a critiQal film review The Rules of Attraction (2002)

Plot: During a semester at New England's Camden College, a sexual triangle emerges between Sean Bateman (Van Der Beek), the all-American looking guy who deals drugs on the side, Paul Owen (Somerhalder), who's bisexual, and Paul's ex-girlfriend, Lauren (Sossamon). Sean grows obsessed with Lauren because he thinks she's passing him passionate, anonymous love notes. At the same time, Paul keeps trying to get Sean into bed, while Lauren pines for Victor (Pardue), who she believes is her dream man despite the fact he is studying abroad in Europe.

487 words (Est. Reading Time 2m 26s)
  • ...a fresh adult-oriented twist on the college scene.

When I first heard about The Rules of Attraction, based on a novel by Brett Easton Ellis (who also wrote the books that American Psycho and Less Than Zero were based on), I wanted to check it out.

Then I heard James Van Der Beek, of “Dawson’s Creek” (TV) was going to be in it, and I wasn’t so sure. I saw a preview recently, it looked decent, so I gave it a go.

I don’t know if I’m going to still respect myself after saying this, but James Van Der Beek did a great job in The Rules of Attraction. The character was a huge change from the meek and sweet Dawson, and definitely showed he’s got range. Sure, he’s done at least one other film (Varsity Blues), but that film wasn’t a huge stretch from his Dawson character. This one was, and he did a good job portraying him realistically.

The other actors, from Sossamon’s Lauren to Somerhelder’s Paul, also did a good job in their roles, and definitely helped to keep the viewer’s attention. It was a well-rounded cast, and all of them seemed to be great casting choices.

Plus, it was great seeing Thomas Ian Nicholas, playing basically his same American Pie (1999) character, which greatly illustrated the difference between these students and the students of that film.

The plot is semi-straightforward. Through trials and tribulations, they all learn just a bit about life. It’s not the happiest of movies, and doesn’t really have a moral, but it is an interesting spectacle to watch.

While not everyone will relate to these people’s college experiences, they will probably notice at least one of the characters is mildly familiar, maybe someone you knew in your college years, maybe someone you just heard about. But familiar, nonetheless.

They are all taken to a bit of an extreme, it’s true, but that flavor of realism is there to help the viewer stay tuned. At times, you know what’s coming, but you can’t turn away, you stay with it to see how they show it.

The special effects were a major part of the film, mostly due to camera shots. As the preview hints at, they do go through some of the scenes backwards, a technique not used a lot in films. The Rules of Attraction uses it to the utmost here, allowing you to view three separate stories happening at the same time at the same party, for example. It’s refreshing, and a nice way to pick the film up out of the ordinary, all by itself.

While The Rules of Attraction isn’t suited for kids, and parents may not like it, the 20’s to 30’s group will probably enjoy it. I thought it was a fresh twist on the whole college scene. It had a decent set of many-layered characters, an interesting storyline, and the filmmakers came up with a great way to show us the storyline.

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