Like one of those young-adult novels designed to ease teens into a lifetime of reading trashy airport fiction, Gossip converts an interesting premise into a familiar thriller so swiftly, it's almost impressive. As part of a project for shiny-haired professor Eric Bogosian, three college housemates (rich playboy James Marsden, boho genius Norman Reedus, and glasses-sporting Lena Headey) decide to start and trace the development of a rumor. As their metropolitan college apparently features a social structure much like that of a suburban church, they pass around the notion that Kate Hudson, famous across campus for her virginity, has slept with Joshua Jackson at a well-attended party. Before long, the rumor has become more elaborate, sordid, and ultimately criminal, causing the foggy-headed Hudson to accuse Jackson of rape. "It's like chaos theory," Reedus declares. (Isn't it disconcerting to hear actors speak lines they almost certainly don't understand?) But it doesn't take knowledge of the work of James Gleick, just familiarity with a handful of other movies in which attractive young people wear dark clothing and dour expressions, to suspect that the rumor will eventually reveal dark secrets the roommates never suspected of one another. By the time clouds of suspicion descend upon their gargantuan, elaborately decorated loft, Gossip has long since forgotten its ostensible premise and settled into a dull tale of cover-ups, scandal, closeted skeletons, cruel intentions, and disturbing behavior. Even if co-writers Gregory Poirier and Theresa Rebeck's script weren't so pat and tasteless, and the characters so one-dimensional, TV vet Davis Guggenheim's direction would stylize Gossip into ineffectuality.