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IN SHORT: Rules? We don't need no stinking rules! What we need is a movie with story focus! [Rated R for strong sexual content, drug use, language and violent images. ]
Finally we have a perfect example of the kind of pretentious, story ignorant, obsessed-with-technique filmmaking that we rail about. It is called The Rules of Attraction and it stinks to high heaven. In his production, writer/director Roger Avary seems to have forgotten that, without allowing an audience any reason to feel empathy -- positive or negative -- with any character in a story, he robs us of any reason to take any pleasure -- again, positive or negative -- in his work.
The problems are two: First, an overuse of a technique by which Avary "rolls" his film backwards, reversing our relation to it in time. Essentially he is stapling one flashback onto another, each delineated by the picture and sound reversal and some by a title noting where we are in a sequence of college parties that form the spine of the story. The technique is a good one to use if it is not overused. In this case it is. Sooner or later, the story has to move forward in time and doing so will put the flashback gimmick to the side.
We'll put what we think was the story back together in chronological order . . .
Lauren Hynde (Shannyn Sossamon) gets incredibly drunk at a party and, as she had determined to do, loses her virginity. She doesn't lose it to the boy of her dreams, Victor (Kip Pardue) nor does she lose it to Sean Bateman (James Van Der Beek, click for StarTalk), with whom she has sort of been developing a romantic relationship with. Sean, it should be noted, is a user. When we first meet, he's picking up girls under a false name. He's the campus drug dealer and his monetary problems with his supplier will come in handy when the film needs a plot point to hit. His attention to Lauren comes because he's been receiving anonymous love notes in his mailbox, which he assumes are from her. Sean is also the unknowing apple of Paul Denton's (Ian Somerhalder) eye. Paul is a predatory gay, as in he's discovered his preference early and is out to collect his own prodigious amount of notches on his belt.
Our mention of Victor is important for, when he finally appears about four reversals back, Avary has long since dispensed with the mention of Lauren's infatuation. When Victor shows up, the general reaction in our screening room (and for us) was a simple "Who the Hell is that???" If you missed the one line about infatuation, you are lost amidst a long set of quick-cuts that are as confusing as they are annoying. Topping that off is a suicide by a character we haven't seen, lovingly and endlessly put onscreen by a writer/director just dying to do another flashback showing that, yes indeedy, said suicide had been on screen all the time!
If we had wanted to be delighted by something fit for our VCR replay, we would have rented. If we wanted to see know ingenious a budding director can be, we'll wait until (he) is famous so we can read about it in the biography.
By the time The Rules of Attraction decides to kick into forward motion we had long since ceased to even try to give a damn about any of the characters on the screen.
On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Ten Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to The Rules of Attraction, he would have paid . . .
The Rules of Attraction is a waste of time.
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