Banal Attraction


If you think The Rules of Attraction is a light-hearted teen comedy about the craziness of college life, you are sorely mistaken. Based on a novel by Bret Easton Ellis (author of American Psycho), The Rules of Attraction is a dark drama with a few very funny scenes.

The movie focuses around three main characters: Sean Bateman (perhaps American Psycho Patrick Bateman’s younger brother?) played by Dawson’s Creek’s James Van Der Beek, Lauren Hynde (Shannyn Sossamon from A Knight’s Tale) and Paul Denton (Ian Somerhalder).

Sean is a drug-dealing emotional vampire who can’t remember the last time he had sex sober. He finds himself in love with Lauren, a virgin who motivates herself to avoid parties and sex by looking through a book of pictures of the effects of sexually transmitted diseases. Paul, Lauren’s ex-boyfriend, is desperate to be with Sean.

The movie starts off with a bang. And a rape. And an assault based on sexual orientation. The first scene of the movie, which is very difficult to watch, takes place at the college’s aptly-named End of the World Party. It highlights the self-destructive results of the characters’ desperation and desire for sex. Most of their problems center around sex, whether they want sex and can’t have it, can only have sex that they don’t really want, or have way more sex than can really be good for anybody.

Following similar themes as American Psycho, The Rules of Attraction is a social commentary showing how rarely people really know each other in a meaningful way. The moments of real honesty are so few and far between that they’re either extremely funny or incredibly sad.

One of the few differences between this movie and American Psycho is that here the sex, violence, nudity, porn, suicide attempts, masturbation, and drug use take place on a New England liberal arts college campus rather than on Wall Street. And, of course, this movie is lacking Christian Bale.

One highlight is that if you have a favorite twenty-something actor, he or she is probably in this movie. The cast includes Seventh Heaven’s Jessica Biel, Blue Crush’s Kate Bosworth, American Pie’s Thomas Ian Nicholas, Kip Pardue from Remember the Titans, and Undeclared’s Jay Baruchel. There are also several notable cameos, including Fred Savage, Swoosie Kurtz, Faye Dunaway, and Eric Stoltz (apparently taking a break from his other gig as the singer for Puddle of Mudd).

Throughout the movie, the director shows several scenes both forward and backward in an effort to illustrate that the end point of the movie, and really the plot in general, is not what matters. Instead, what is most interesting is what goes on in the character’s heads and how they interact as a result.

The ending is the ultimate confirmation of the emphasis on characters rather than storyline. It also shows that the ultimate purpose of the progression of the characters is for the edification of the viewer and not the characters themselves. In the end it certainly doesn’t appear that any of the characters are more self-aware than they started off.

By far the best scene of the movie is Russell Sams as Dick (not Richard) performing George Michael’s “Faith” in his hotel room with Paul before the two go to dinner with their mothers (Kurtz and Dunaway) completely drunk. The mothers struggle to stay composed while enduring Dick’s tirade about college life and sex despite the fact that they have merely replaced pot and cocaine with Prozac, painkillers and vodka Collins’. This scene alone may be worth the ten dollars, or at least the matinee price.

If you haven’t seen American Psycho, go see this movie or at least rent American Psycho. If you have seen it, The Rules of Attraction still may be a worthwhile watch for the comedic scenes and the still-meaningful social commentary.

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