The Shape of Things

The Shape of Things
Film review by: Witney Seibold

The Shape of Things
            Smarter than they are wise, the characters from Neil LaBute’s “The Shape of Things” are all profoundly flawed people. Evelyn is insensitive and seems almost unwittingly manipulative. Almost. Adam is insecure and awkward and profoundly weak. They are grad students having a relationship, but don’t understand each other. Indeed, they seem to have completely different outlooks on human interaction. They know the form of human behavior, but not the function. They know, well, the shape of things.
            The film is based on LaBute’s play, and has Rachel Weisz and Paul Rudd reprising their stage roles as Evelyn and Adam. The story is: Adam is a nerd and Evelyn is a free spirit. They hook up in an unlikely pairing that seems to make them both happy. Evelyn cleans up Adam. Adam begins losing weight and becomes very attractive. It’s not long before Evelyn begins telling him how he’d look in certain outfits, and how good a nose job would be for him, and just what he can do to be loved by her. It’s a subtle buildup of manipulation. Soon, Adam finds himself trying to dump his friends, notably an old crush, Jenny (Gretchen Mol) who is a little more prudish, but probably a lot better for him, and his old roommate Phillip (Fred Weller). The film’s painful finale/reveal is devastating. It’s a finale that redefines the film and the characters.
            I know. It’s not so much a plot description as a vague character outline. But then LaBute, the man behind “Your Friends & Neighbors” and “Possession,” has always been more interested in human interaction, and LaBute’s characters have always spoken more like humans beings and less like move characters. They fill awkward silences with nervous laughs. They’re not sure exactly what to say. And, in the case of this film, they are all fiercely educated, but have no life experience. Like most twentysomethings, they feel grown up already, which gives them a right to commit subtle emotional atrocities all in the name of experience.
            A social satire of a higher order, “The Shape of Things” is wonderful. That it also feels like a college play is to its credit.

Published in: on June 3, 2009 at 6:26 pm  Leave a Comment  

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