The Rules of Attraction review by The Grim Ringler

The Rules Of Attraction

This is officially my second attempt at reviewing this film. I had written an earlier review but it didn’t say anything, it just rambled, because to be honest, this is not the easiest of movies to review. On the surface, it’s about four miserably self-absorbed people and one term they spend away at college. And that’s about it. ON THE SURFACE. But more than the typical movie where A leads to B leads to C, this is an examination of the college experience, and at the emotional deadening that can take place during those years. But beneath it all are the stories of four people struggling to both lose and find themselves at the same time, and how in the end they can only find the middle.

Sean, Paul, Lara, and Lauren are the four characters the film follows, each one linked in a six-degrees of separation way in which all of their fates are intertwined at first by circumstance and then by a fate they declare but cannot escape. Sean is the lead character, and as played by James VanDerbeek, is the most hideous of the four. He describes himself as an emotional vampire and lives life as one, using anyone and everyone, even himself, to gain whatever end he is after. And when he has it, he moves on, a shark, looking for new prey. Paul is a gay player, looking for the next loverman and then the next after that. Lara is the same as Paul, but is more of an experimenter, seeming as if she is ‘getting it out of her system’ as it were so she has some stories when she’s a suburban mom. And Lauren is perhaps the most tragic because she is the most ‘human’, wanting to be with someone, but wanting it for the wrong reasons, and unable to see it. And that’s the movie. Sean fixates on Lauren because she is different from his other conquests. Paul fixates on Sean, wanting him and wanting to consume him almost, but unable to see him for what he is. Lauren wants Sean, but because she can’t have someone else she wants. And Lara just wants to experience everyone and everything. There is a sadness and emptiness to all the sex and drugs the permeates the movie and the characters, and it’s a feat of pure derring-do that Roger Avary never messes it up and even manages to slip some humor into it all.

The film, for all its darkness and excess, is more about college than it is the characters. About the deadening of the soul and the loss of innocence and self a lot of people go through while in college. It’s almost as if the college is a character that sucks the lives from all that attend it. And as strong as the four main stories are, the saddest and best story of all the ones told in the film, for me, was that of a girl that obsesses about the wrong guy, gets let down, and in the end cannot see past her own pain and need. And to see that sequence just breaks your heart. And perhaps that is the greatest achievement of the film, that beneath all the excess and the selfishness, there is still humanity to the characters, which could have been lost easily.

This is a pretty great film, though it is certainly not for everyone. It’s a very grim black comedy, and a lot of the stuff is a lot more tragic than it is funny. But what the film does, and does wonderfully, is show how dehumanizing college and even adulthood can be. The movie could easily have become yet another college movie farce, or worse yet, get mired down in the darkness of the film and just wallow in it (see: KIDS) but he manages to inject some very black humor into it all which keeps things from getting too melodramatic or just plain nasty. Thankfully thought VanDerbeek and the other actors nail their characters spot on and give the film a very real, if hard, heart.

The film looks and sounds good, though there were a couple scenes that had some really bad particles during it, which I can’t figure other than the film itself had defects on it when they transferred. As for the extras though, they are sort of a weird batch, offering nothing more than six commentaries, one from none other than comic Carrot-top, who gives offers his comments about the film as he watches it for the first time. Sadly I rented this disc so I didn’t get to hear any of the full commentaries, but what I heard of the Carrot-Top one, well, wow, that should be one REALLY interesting commentary track.

For the adventuresome amongst you, this is a really great movie. The film has a very strange style and structure to it that will put some people off at first, as will the characters, but if you give it a chance, you’ll find a really dark, gripping character study. Rumor has it that there may be an un-rated version of the film that will pop up in time so it might be wise to wait and see what happens before buying, but I really do recommend this highly if you like your movies dark, honest, and that leave you with a lot to think about when it’s over.


8 out of 10 Jackasses

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