Review by: Jack Foley | Rating:
DVD SPECIAL FEATURES: Commentary by director Neil LaBute and
Paul Rudd; The Shape of Things From Stage To Screen: An Introduction
By Neil LaBute; Welcome To Mercy College; Trailer.
AFTER the lacklustre romance of Possession,
hard-hitting writer/director Neil LaBute returns to familiar territory
with The Shape of Things, a twisted take on the battle of the
sexes, which has been adapted for the big screen from his own
Using the same cast as he did in the West End and on Broadway,
LaBute has crafted a wickedly intriguing think-piece, which functions
as much as a commentary on modern art, as it does a dark examination
on the nature of relationships.
Paul Rudd (of Phoebes boyfriend in Friends fame) stars
as nerdy museum attendant, and student, Adam, whose life is transformed
when he catches Rachel Weiszs free-thinker about to deface
a work of art and develops a rapport which results in a relationship.
The subsequent affair helps Adam to develop an unrealised confidence
in both himself and his opinions, and transforms him from shy
geek to attractive love prospect, while also serving to provide
an examination of his friendship with lost love, Jenny (Gretchen
Mol), and her obnoxious fiance, Phillip (Fred Weller).
To reveal too much more would be to deprive LaBute of the surprises
he has in store, even though fans of his theatre work will be
all too familiar with the direction the film is headed.
Suffice to say, this is a contemporary look at the nature of
relationships and social standing, which references some of the
classics (Pygmalion and Hitchocks Vertigo spring to mind),
while also harking back to the raw, brutal power of some of the
directors earlier work - most notably, In The Company of
Men and Your Friends and Neighbours.
The cast is uniformly excellent, with Rudd, especially, pulling
viewers in a number of directions during the course of his transformation,
and forcing them to confront their own perceptions about love,
looks and the importance of being true to ones self.
Weisz, too, provides a mesmerising presence - at times, sweet
and sexy, while at others, single-minded in the pursuit of her
goals, which frequently places her at odds with the world Adam
has constructed for himself.
There are times when the film, almost inevitably, struggles to
overcome its theatrical origins, particularly as it is played
like a four-hander throughout, but this shouldnt detract
from the enjoyment of the piece, or - most importantly - its power.
For once the denouement has been delivered and the questions
begin to fly, the real fun begins in dissecting the repercussions
and analysing the rights and wrongs of the characters motivations.
This is one that is virtually guaranteed to divide people over
its conclusion, even if it leaves the more romantically-inclined
feeling somewhat cold.