The Rules Of Attraction
Filmmaker Roger Avary famously worked with Quentin Tarantino at a video store before collaborating with him on the story for Pulp Fiction, the film that clinched their storied evolution from nobodies to Oscar-winners. Avary's directorial debut, 1994's Killing Zoe, shared Tarantino's love for scuzzy lowlifes, pop-culture riffing, and stylish violence, but lacked the concern for character and subtlety that characterized Tarantino's Pulp Fiction follow-up, the refreshingly mature Jackie Brown. Instead, Zoe resembled a Neanderthal version of Tarantino's first two films. Avary would initially seem like an unlikely choice to bring Bret Easton Ellis' The Rules Of Attraction to the big screen, but his brash, audacious, lively adaptation outlines a world of common ground between his sensation-crazed outlaws and the amoral yuppie hedonists of Ellis' universe. Instant gratification is the name of the game in The Rules Of Attraction, both for its sex- and drug-addled characters and in Avary's directorial style. He films every scene for maximum visceral impact, dispensing sex, drugs, and violence in industrial-sized doses. In a performance designed to obliterate his Dawson's Creek image, James Van Der Beek stars as drug-dealing college student Sean Bateman, who shares more than just a surname with the serial-killing protagonist of Ellis' American Psycho. A Knight's Tale's Shannyn Sossamon co-stars as the object of Van Der Beek's misguided affections, a virgin who preserves her chastity by flipping through a book detailing the horrors of venereal diseases before going to parties. Ian Somerhalder, a dead ringer for Wes Bentley, fills the third point in the film's unrequited-love triangle, as an effete rich boy hoping that Van Der Beek is more than a little bi-curious. The Rules Of Attraction unabashedly assumes that nothing succeeds like excess. Avary piles on the stylistic tricks with gratuitous glee, employing split-screens, backward movement, flashy editing, and speeded-up film like a brash film student with a budget trying to beat Tarantino, Martin Scorsese, and Brian De Palma at their own game. Surprisingly, the excess works, giving the film a sleazy energy that's only occasionally overbearing. Propelled by a fine Tomandandy score and a savvy assortment of seductive new-wave hits, Attraction is top-notch trash, a guilty pleasure designed for the decadent 14-year-old in everyone.