The Rules of Attraction (2002)

Genres - Comedy Drama  |   Sub-Genres - Satire  |   Release Date - Oct 11, 2002 (USA)  |   Run Time - 110 min.  |   Countries - Germany , United States   |   MPAA Rating - R
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Review by Brian J. Dillard

Despite the attempts of Marek Kanievska, Mary Harron, and now Roger Avery, Bret Easton Ellis' deadpan novels don't really translate well to naturalistic cinema. The author's slyly satirical voice seems deadly serious onscreen, and his densely detailed interior monologues are impossible to capture visually. Though less moralistic than Kanievska's Less Than Zero and more lively than Harron's mannered American Psycho, Avery's The Rules of Attraction suffers from an affectedly in-your-face style that attaches profound relevance and restless energy to the same scenes Ellis' characters recounted with such detachment. Time moves backward, events are viewed from multiple perspectives, and debaucheries are excavated clinically, to a raucous pop soundtrack. Such devices may have matched the noir-flavored material Avery wrote with Quentin Tarantino, but they're ill-suited to an AIDS-era comedy of manners about soul-deadened liberal arts students from the East Coast establishment. If The Rules of Attraction found a compelling voice all its own, then Avery could join the ranks of adapters who have fashioned something compellingly different from their source material. But despite an impressively dark turn from teen idol James Van Der Beek and the winsome Audrey Hepburn-isms of "it" girl Shannyn Sossamon, the film overwhelms its subtle subject with too much over-the-top style. The result? A flick whose characters endure gang bangs, sexual exploitation, and suicide without engaging the audience's sympathy, or even sometimes its interest.