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The Shape of Things (15)



Review by: Jack Foley | Rating: Two

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 successful play.

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 Phoebe’s boyfriend in Friends fame) stars as nerdy museum attendant, and student, Adam, whose life is transformed when he catches Rachel Weisz’s 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 Hitchock’s Vertigo spring to mind), while also harking back to the raw, brutal power of some of the director’s 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 one’s 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 shouldn’t 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.

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