Those who respond to Neil LaBute's distinct voice will savor all of the meaty dialogue in the exchanges between the four characters in The Shape of Things. Having performed the play together on-stage, all of the actors are very comfortable with LaBute's style. The foursome's ease with the characters and the dialogue is evident, helping sell some of the more implausible passages in the story. LaBute has grown steadily as a director. While In the Company of Men felt like the first film that it was, The Shape of Things shows that LaBute understands when to move the camera and how to edit for maximum effectiveness. The static camera that dominated his earliest films seemed to indicate unease with the process of making film images. His confidence both behind the camera and in editing has grown to the point that now, when he keeps the camera in place for an extended period, one senses a purpose for the decision. Because he wants nothing to get in the way of the words, he treats the actors well in the frame. He respects his performers, and they respond by finding reservoirs of repellency which they might not have otherwise tapped. Rachel Weisz is riveting as the manipulative Evelyn, whose motivation provides the type of concluding emotional whammy that LaBute favors. Paul Rudd communicates the emotional and psychological toll Adam's ugly-duckling transformation takes on him, while never abandoning the character's essential goodness (or dorkiness). Although this film is about surfaces and image, the final exchange between Evelyn and Adam hinges emotionally on words -- not just the dialogue the characters exchange, but on words the characters have shared that are kept secret from the audience. That the emotional thrust of the film comes down to the spoken word is proof that LaBute is at heart a playwright. He has learned the shape and the form of filmmaking, but he is a person who responds first and foremost to language. For this reason alone, The Shape of Things is quintessential Neil LaBute.
by Perry Seibert review