Attraction

Spurned by his former lover months earlier, the ostensible hero of first-time director Russell DeGrazier's vapid, unsavory Attraction sleeps in a car in front of her place, calls her on the phone and hangs up, and peers through the salon window where she works. When he's not stalking her, he moonlights as a prominent radio personality and a relationship columnist for a local alt-weekly, but he can't apply his advice to his own life. Irony! As a tale of romantic obsession, Attraction recalls Albert Brooks' Modern Romance, a lacerating dark comedy about a man whose all-consuming "love" for a shallow bank teller is generated by a desperate fear of loneliness and ugly sexual hang-ups. The difference is that when Brooks' character spends one night circling his ex-girlfriend's house, his behavior is recognizably human, the painful result of his worst, most self-destructive impulses. As played by the fatally unappealing Matthew Settle, DeGrazier's stalker is just a sleazy, narcissistic creep. Set in Los Angeles over an eventful 24-hour period, Attraction grafts a love rectangle onto schematic twists and turns in lieu of more careful attention to character. Gretchen Mol, who seems to specialize in playing passive objects of affection, struggles in the thankless role of a woman defined by someone else's emotional fixation. In a plot to win Mol back by making her jealous, Settle seduces her vulnerable friend Samantha Mathis, but his plan backfires when they develop real feelings for each other. While he continues to stalk Mol, Settle is followed in turn by newspaper editor Tom Everett Scott, who wants to protect her from Settle's violent tendencies, but has ulterior motives of his own. Irony! Shallow and insufferably neurotic at best, loathsome and deceitful at worst, the four young romantics in Attraction are predators and prey in a version of the dating world that might appear in a men's magazine. The women are weak and exploitable, their pursuers possessive and Darwinian, eager to assert what little power they have over their quarry and each other. With its empty shows of style, its leaden ironies, and a violent third act that severs all ties with reality, Attraction has plenty of problems. But when it's impossible to care about anyone onscreen, those flaws are negligible by comparison.

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