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Rules of Attraction

Sex, Drugs & Rock-n-Roll

Ah, college. Where one explores the glory of youth while reading about obscure economic theories and learning how to do keg stands. Where you can pass your time lounging on the grass, drinking strong coffee and talking about Nietzsche. Four years (or five for you slackers) full of halcyon days.

A quaint New England Liberal Arts school by the name of Camden College plays the setting of Bret Easton Ellis' 1987 novel The Rules of Attraction, brought to the screen by writer/director by Roger Avary (co-writer of Pulp Fiction and director of Killing Zoe). The guys in Animal House have nothing on the students at Camden.

It's all about PRIORITES at the college, where theme parties like "The End of the World Party", "The Dressed to Get Screwed Party", and the "The Pre-Saturday Night Party" take precedence over classes, family and even morals. Funny how the US News & World Report's rankings of top college and universities always seems to skip things like "% of drug use" and "highest level of hook-ups." The director uses the parties as markers for the movement of the film, which looks at the love lives, and antics of a group of students a semester.

Sean Bateman (James "WB eat-your-heart-out" Van Der Beek), the just as crazy younger brother of Patrick Bateman, the main character of a later Ellis novel cum movie American Psycho is an emotionally unbalanced student dealing drugs and living life to the fullest effect of his motto - "Rock-n-Roll." He's been receiving secret love notes from a special somebody on campus - he figures that somebody to be the amazingly cool and astonishingly pretty Lauren (Shannyn Sossamon). Lauren, however, is in love with her ex-boyfriend Victor (Kip Pardue) who's backpacking and screwing his way around Europe.

She walks a thin line between being virginal and an all-out whore like her roommate Lara (Jessica Biel) who'll sleep with anyone that will look at her, including all of Lauren's beaus. Paul (Ian Somerhalder), on the other hand, isn't getting any. He falls for Sean who rather make out with a hamster in heat than give him some bootie. Amidst the dysfunctional love fest is nose candy galore and a lot of sex, particularly masturbation.

The movie seems to have one memorable scene after another strung together. Every scene with Sean's wigged out drug dealer, Rupert (Clifton Collins, Jr. giving an amazing performance here) who's been too busy testing the merchandise, to develop any human interaction skills is hilarious and outstanding. In response to Sean telling him, via gunpoint, that Rupert needed him to move his drugs on campus, he replies, "I need you like an asshole on my elbow!" Collins' sharp, glazed eyes are strangely reminiscent of Robert Downey Jr's in his role in another Bret Easton Ellis novel cum movie Less Than Zero.

Another unforgettable scene is one in which Paul has dinner with his off-kilter mom Mrs. Denton (Faye Dunaway) and cavorts with a family friend's son, aptly dubbed Dick (Russell Sams), in his hotel room - rocking out to George Michael's "Faith" like it was 1999. Afterwards, during dinner at a stuffy W.A.S.P. only establishment, Dick's mother asks him how school is going, he replies emphatically that, "It sucks cock!" Subsequently, he steals the whole scene and becomes one of the highlights of the film.

The performances are top-notch including the many cameos from actors like Eric Stoltz as the worst professor in the world, and Fred Savage as a babbling heroin user. The filmmaking is sharp and the innovative introduction to the characters sets the vibe for the whole film - exciting, fast and outrageous. The Rules of Attraction is replete with scenes that are set-up from finish to start; that is, they are rewinded and done backwards (the movie begins from the end and goes full circle). The people even talk backwards and seasons turn from winter into the end of summer. But it starts to get old when every single scene begins in this manner; it turns from inventive into a shtick. Furthermore, the soundtrack would compel every eighties music lover to scream with joy.

It's safe to say that every single person in this film is dysfunctional and corrupt, but it's so much fun to revel in their debauchery! The Rules of Attraction is true entertainment from an era in its own class.


Rules of Attraction
Rated R
1 hour 50 minutes

James Van Der Beek
Shannyn Sossamon
Jessica Biel
Ian Somerhalder
Kate Bosworth