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Set in the small, affluent Camden College of the arts, we meet Sean Bateman (James Van Der Beek) a striking young man with only a passing association with his emotions (but adept at trading in drugs), Paul Denton (Ian Somerhalder), a cynical, sexually predatory and intelligent libertine and Lauren Hynde (Shannyn Sossamon) a beautiful befuddled young woman seeking connections where few exist. But human nature determines that in a highly imperfect world, the rules of attraction always apply ... and among the co-eds at Camden College, the first rule is: There are no rules.

Review by Louise Keller:
No-one knows anyone is the theme of The Rules of Attraction, an adult teen movie with personal monologues from three students aimlessly exploring life and who they are. Masturbation, over indulgence, sexuality, drug-taking, unrequited love, suicide and fantasies are all part of this crude, morose taste of campus life. I havenít read the novel, but I suspect that the narrative probably works better on the printed page than the movie, allowing the imagination to do the work with imagery of your own chosing. After all, itís the nuances and emotions that are the key to what this is all about. In the opening sequence, we meet the central characters, and without delay at The End of the World Party, we are in the bedroom with beautiful freshman Lauren, who is anxious to lose her virginity. But she has overindulged, and as a result she isnít quite sure who is heaving on top of her. She thinks itís the guy with the digital camera, but when she sees him recording the scene, she realises that itís someone else who is deflowering her. And then he spews all over her. And then we see it backwards.†

This is indicative of what to expect Ė animalistic behaviour. Interestingly director Roger Avary plays with the time frame and we to and fro from the present to the past, occasionally rewinding the action so that life takes a trip backwards. James Van Der Beek, Shannyn Sossamon, Jessica Biel and Kip Pardue give convincing performances, and Van Der Beek somehow makes his revolting character appealing. Sossamon is a classy act, impressing yet again as the virgin who looks at venereal disease photos before going to a party, hoping it will act as a deterrent.†

The problem is much of the action acts as a deterrent and we donít really care for the characters. In the hospital scene, when a student is taken to emergency for a suspected overdose, the comment Ďtoe tag time in teensvilleí by a physician simply reeks cynicism. But then, letís face it, this is a film that could be called The Rules of Repulsion, and much of it is repulsive to watch. I canít imagine what enticed Faye Dunaway to the project: she pops up in a small cameo that is totally inconsequential and looks rather uncomfortable. Good use of music however, with a compelling selection of good rhythmic pop tunes that often illustrate emotions. The story ends where it began, at The End of the World Party, by which time we have learned that no-one knows anyone. And probably never will. Rock Ďn roll.†

For those who are intrigued by the film, there are three audio commentaries to get differing perspectives. So you can join Shannon Sossamon and other members of the cast and crew. I found the Anatomy of a Scene feature by director Roger Avary and crew rather fascinating. It begins as a standard making-of feature in which they describe this as being Ďthe experience you have in college, if you have a really bad experience.í Itís also about the ability to connect and not connect, explaining how the experiences are played from different points of views which allows us to see the scenes a couple of times but learning something different each time. Avary and his team talk in detail about the rationale behind the split scene, which is the first time the two leads meet on screen. Split scenes are usually used to show the connection between characters, but this one is slightly different as it concentrates on the disconnection between the two.

Published July 10, 2003

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CAST: James Van Der Beek, Shannyn Sossamon, Jessica Biel, Kip Pardue

DIRECTOR: Roger Avary

SCRIPT: Roger Avary (novel by Bret Easton Ellis)

RUNNING TIME: 110 minutes

PRESENTATION: 5.1 surround sound; 16 X 9 widescreen

SPECIAL FEATURES: Anatomy of a scene by director Roger Avary plus the creative team; three audio commentaries with Shannyn Sossamon and cast & crew, Australian teaser trailer; Australian theatrical trailer

DVD DISTRIBUTOR: Warner Home Video

DVD RELEASE: July 9, 2003

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