Love is the Devil
Film review by: Witney Seibold
There may actually be colleges in this nation which feature parties with named like “pre-Saturday night party,” “end of the world,” and “dress to be fucked.” There may actually be those parties full of nude women out to find emotional fulfillment from shallow, horny boys, while keg after keg of beer flows into someone’s house in the suburbs. I have never experienced these parties except for in the movies (that I was a teetotaling theater major may have limited my exposure). It is in this world of dizzying, alcoholic narcissism that Roger Avary’s new film “The Rules of Attraction,” based on the novel by Bret East Ellis, takes place.
We follow the stories of three students attending college at Camden. Sean Bateman (James Van Der Beek), a popular stud with inner monologue that consists of phrases like “I need to get laid, then get some pot.” (Incidentally, Bateman was the killer from “American Psycho,” also Ellis inspired). Lauren (Shannyn Sossamon), a virgin looking to lose it with the right guy, but who doesn’t. And Paul (Ian Somerhalder), who is falling in unrequited love/lust with Sean. They are each drunks who make horrible mistakes during the course of the film, and discover that being romantically attracted to someone, ends up, in this world, being poison.
This film is high on style. There are wonderful extended shots of film running backwards. Events tumble forward, but we are run back and forth through them. We are stuck in this world right along with the depraved people trying desperately to do something right, even if it is sleep with the right person. Even the final word of the film is cut off. We also get many delightful shots of Van Der Beek’s insane rictus as he scopes and bed his conquests. The camerawork and editing is simply incredible.
The problem with using style that aggressively, however, is it distances us from the true depravity of the people. Unlike, say, “Bully,” we don’t see the people as monsters, but funny curiosities. It is indeed an exhilarating experience, but a film about a world where love is punished shouldn’t be all that exhilarating.