The Rules of Attraction
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Forget everything you thought you knew about higher education. Academy® Award-winning writer/director Roger Avary masterfully takes you back to school and drops you in the middle of the drugged-out, sexed-up lived of some of Camden College's most disaffected students. Meet Sean Bateman (James Van Der Beek), a womanizing drug dealer whose quest for a connection brings him face-to-face with Lauren (Shannyn Sossamon), a sensitive virgin looking for love but saving herself for the much sought after Victor (Kip Pardue). All the while Paul Denton (Ian Somerhalder) wants to make a connection of his own...with Sean. This darly funny satire of life, love and the pursuit of socail debauchery is based on the best-selling novel by Bret Easton Ellis.
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i looked forward to the dvd release, and i was excited to hear about the bounty of commentary tracks on the disc -- commentaries are one of my favorite parts of dvd's. i was disappointed to find out that the "surprise guest" commentary track was from carrot top -- he's never been a favorite of mine, and his track is actually fairly boring...it's just him seemingly watching the movie for the first time and making occasional comments.
the other commentaries are more interesting, but i found them a bit unsettling. for a movie that was nominated for a GLAAD media award there is a surprising amount of homophobia, particularly from ian somerhalder. he talks repeatedly about how uncomfortable he was with the scenes involving male-male contact. it really gets to the point where you just want to tell him "ok, ian, we get it...you're not gay." another commentator talks about how ian is as beautiful on the inside as he is on the outside, but that's certainly not the impression i get from him.
that said, there is a lot of interesting information in the commentaries from other actors and technical experts. put together, the tracks give a good sense of relatively-low-budget movie production.
If I had to pick a bone, its that the book itself doesn't have enough of a narrative story and that problem seems to have translated somewhat to the screen. Avary does a great job of using reverse motion (more effectively than I've ever seen before) split screen (pretty amazing, the one scene that is dissected on the DVD in Anatomy of a Scene)nonlinear timeline and some other subtle tricks but its misdirection, designed to point the viewer a bit away from the lack of narrative.
Make no mistake...I thought it was a really good film. If anything, the problem stems from the source material, where Ellis was building characters with a relatively loose narrative story. Avary does a very good job translating it.
Interestingly, in Ellis' writing, he sometimes switches to different narrative forms. That sounded like one thing in my head as I read, but to see Avary's take on it, it changed it. Victor's Trip (if you haven't seen the movie, wait and you'll see what I mean) was almost pure Ellis and while different from the voice in my head, it was just as legitimate. In short, I want to go re-read the book and listen to the commentaries on the DVD.