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Rules of Attraction (18)



Review by: Jack Foley | Rating: Two

DVD SPECIAL FEATURES: Two audio commentaries featuring Ian Somerhalder, Shannyn Sossaman and Kip Pardue; 'The Anatomy of a Scene' featurette (26 mins); Theatrical TV and radio spots; Trailers.

FROM its poster featuring cuddly toys in various sexual positions to its boast that it comes from ‘the corrupt minds that brought you American Psycho and Pulp Fiction’, audiences should be aware that this is no ordinary slice of gross-out college campus fare.

Rather, it is the flip side of American Pie, a sordid, drug-fuelled rampage through rites-of-passage teenage angst that sets out to stick two fingers up to the sweet-natured innocence of recent coming-of-age tales in a way that resembles deflowering a virgin on prom night.

Written and directed by Roger Avary (co-author of Pulp Fiction) and based upon the novel by Bret Easton Ellis (of American Psycho fame), The Rules of Attraction is described as a ‘scabrously funny social satire of life and love among the young and the privileged’.

It is also notable for tarnishing the ‘nice-guy’ image of Dawson Creek poster boy, James Van Der Beek, and for constantly flirting with the US censor in its bid to avoid being removed from the mainstream.

And to a certain extent, it succeeds in exposing the wasteful obsessions of its hormonally-charged protagonists and their hedonistic excesses, coming across as a deliciously barbed movie that is likely to offend as many people as it enthrals.

Van Der Beek stars as one of three affluent students, a drug dealer over his head in debt, and who has slept his way round the college campus, who suddenly finds himself falling in love with Shannyn Sossamon’s breezy loner, who may or may not be penning love letters to him.

Sossamon, however, is in love with another, a former boyfriend now travelling around Europe, who she is determined to save herself for, while Van Der Beek finds himself fending off the unwanted attentions of Ian Somerhalder’s gay libertine, who is struggling to come to terms with his own sexuality.

Surrounding them are the usual glut of friends and sleeping partners, all of whom stagger from one drug-alcohol-and-sex-drenched party to the next, the type of which go by names The End of the World Party, The Dress to Get Screwed Party and The Pre-Saturday Night Party.

But while Avary’s film is to be applauded for avoiding the usual cliches and for refusing to drift into mawkish sentiment, in which everyone learns valuable life lessons and emerges the better for it, there are times when it feels as though it is striving a little too hard to be controversial.

Its cast, in particular, is packed with people trying to escape established images, (former Wonder Years star, Fred Savage, and American Pie regular, Thomas Ian Nicholas (Kevin) crop up regularly), while its endless scenes of debauchery eventually become tiresome.

Van Der Beek, however, is refreshingly good as the morally bankrupt Sean Bateman (who is actually the brother of American Psycho’s Patrick in the Ellis novel), while Sossamon does a credible job of displaying a darker side to her usual love interest persona - someone who insists on looking at pictures of sexual diseases before every party in a bid to preserve her virginity, but who ends up virtually being raped by her eventual suitor.

But then this is bleak stuff indeed, albeit with a dark line in humour, and one which taps into the confusion which surrounds any teen journey. Fun in places, and disturbing in others, this is cynical filmmaking at its gaudiest.

In fact, rather like stumbling into one of the parties it depicts, you may find yourself intoxicated by what’s on offer while viewing, but then wondering what happened and who you met by the time you awake the next morning. Perfect viewing, then, for a ‘speed-dating’ obsessed generation.

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