ninth symphony films - movie reviews


DIRECTOR  -  roger avary

RATED  -  r

GENRE  -  twisted

LENGTH  -  110 minutes

RELEASED  -  11 october 2002

DISTRIBUTOR  -  lions gate films

OFFICIAL SITE  -  rules of attraction

ESTIMATED BUDGET  -  $4,000,000
the rules of attraction - a shot from the film


buy the dvd from the rules of attraction at

buy the dvd from the rules of attraction at

a dark, violent look into the love triangle between a gay man, a straight man, and a woman.

this film originally had a rating of nc-17, but the director trimmed it to get an r rating.


picture from the rules of attraction

picture from the rules of attraction

picture from the rules of attraction


one out of four possible stars

Although the performances in The Rules of Attraction are the best that any of the actors in the film have ever given, there is a host of problems in the film which don't allow their talents to shine. The most damning mistake in the film is that the screenwriter has made it absolutely impossible for the audience to care one whiff about any of the people featured in this film. They are all the most depraved, despicable individuals, and forming sympathy for any of them would be a trial for even the most feeling person.

That said, James Van Der Beek has a good handle on what it takes to create an evil character. What is hard to digest is the fact that the director seems to have wanted the audience to sympathize with this drug-dealing, sexually promiscuous, violent college student. He has a multitude of problems to work through over the course of the story and the resolution to those problems doesn't every occur. Van Der Beek certainly carries off looking the evil part as well, with many well placed shots that highlight his Neanderthal-like forehead and caveman attributes.

Joining him on screen in a part which also reeks of evil is Ian Somerhalder, the gay student who likes to hit on everyone he meets. He isn't so much evil, as unenviable. He's not a very lucky guy and all he thinks about is banging the guy next-door, figuratively speaking. But though it's hard to care about what happens to his character, his performance still is of a higher caliber than the script probably deserves. Shannyn Sossamon also gives a performance which bests all of her previous roles combined. Her character has major problems, just like the rest of the poor college students, and hers is quite hard a character to understand. While it might be possible to empathize with her sexual frustration, she does things that don't exactly endear her to the audience.

The evil present in this film might have made for a quirky, ironic picture if the film had been funny. But these college students and their problems are just too damn depressing. There is not an upbeat sentence uttered in the entire movie, and that can easily wear down an audience. With subject matter as screwy as the ideas tossed around in Attraction, one wouldn't expect hearts, flowers, and bunny rabbits in every scene, but seeing some light at the end of that horribly dark tunnel could have made it easier to care about the characters. It is hard to fathom why a film would be edited together with so much horror in it, especially since it is not a slasher movie. The movie is dark, but much of the time it's too dark.

There are two small rays of light in the film that don't affect the plot in the long run, but still give the audience all the laughs they will receive. The first of these comedic moments comes when Ian Somerhalder's character, "Paul," is invited to dinner with his mother, his mother's friend, and that friend's son. Played by Faye Dunaway, Swoosie Kurtz, and Russell Sams (playing Dick), respectively, this dinner scene is one of two laugh-out-loud moments in the film. Everyone at the table is either drunk, high, or gay, and the scene plays out like one long rambling mess. But it is the delivery of each of those actors that makes it funny. Though these three actors have but what would be considered cameo roles, their work still makes for the best scene in the movie.

The other entertaining scene in the film occurs a few moments before when Paul and Dick dance almost naked together on a hotel bed, lip-syncing to the vocalizing of George Michael. There are no words in the scene, and there is no real reason for it to be in the film, yet it is still one of the funniest moments in the entire movie. The editor employs a liberal use of jump cuts in this and other scenes in the film, and at least in the bed dancing sequence, the technique works. In fact, the jump cuts are very effective in the film, though the same cannot be said for the cinematography and other editing features. There are far too many close-ups in the movie.

Incredibly tight shots of every actor in this movie invade every scene and become quite ineffective after so much use. While everyone in the film could be considered more on the beautiful side, using the close-up so frequently made quite sure that any emotional punch the audience might have received from that type of cinematic device was lost. And the editing also contains an element of over-use. That is the technique of reversing the action for an entire scene. The film is told from each of the three sides of the love-triangle central to the movie's plot (between Sossamon, Van Der Beek, and Somerhalder) and to tell a different side of the story, the film simply falls into reverse to get back to a certain point.

While this technique is interesting in the beginning, it and other strange shots and cuts make sure that the cinematography becomes more annoying than innovative. Cinematic tricks are best used sparingly for the best benefit, but that sentiment certainly did not occur to the filmmakers of The Rules of Attraction. Apparently more is more in director Roger Avary's opinion. His crop of unhealthy coke sniffing underage nymphomaniacs doesn’t give the viewer any reason to view this film in its entirety. Unless viewers are fans of the actors or fans of the novel the film was based on, this movie will be nothing if not a strange experience in the theater. A very open mind is required to even view the film.

Review by Kelsey Wyatt.

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