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James Van Der Beek
Shannyn Sossamon
Ian Somerhalder
Kip Pardue.
Roger Avary.
Roger Avary.
Running Time
110 minutes

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The Rules Of Attraction
Stylistically accomplished portrait of the shallow, sordid, callous lives of Daddy's little rich girls and boys on campus.

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Campus drug dealer Sean thinks Lauren is sending him love letters, but she's saving her virginity for boyfriend Victor, who's visiting Europe. Bisexual Paul is drawn to Sean's dark side and once dated Lauren. Meanwhile, their fellow students prepare for the weekend’s End Of The World Party…

The prettier they are on the outside, the uglier they are on the inside. That's General Rule Of Thumb # 1 in the acerbic vision of Bret Easton Ellis.His depictions of spoilt rich kids filling the empty hours of their empty days with empty pursuits defined an American generation in seminal '80s novels Less Than Zero and The Rules Of Attraction.

It was a natural progression for these emotionally vacuous, callous, surface-obsessed characters to evolve into Patrick Bateman and his designer-label fantasy life in American Psycho. Here was Ellis' definitive statement on how boredom and self-loathing turned the world into a malicious, egocentric playground for the privileged.

Inner ugliness must be hereditary in the Bateman family, as Patrick's brother Sean is the main character in The Rules Of Attraction. The campus drug dealer at a New England arts college, Sean hasn't yet developed his sibling's talent for dismemberment and mutilation, but he's the master when it comes to laying waste to the emotions of the girls he sleeps with.

It's just as well that they're usually too stoned to notice or care. Daddy's favourites - both male and female - are gorgeous to behold, but they're already displaying a repulsive vicious streak that will no doubt take them far when they enter into their ready-made jobs in big business or go off to squander their trust funds.

Ellis' books have translated fairly well to the big screen. Perhaps the Brat Pack (Robert Downey Jr. aside) were a little lightweight for Marek Kanievska's Less Than Zero, but Christian Bale and director Mary Harron perfectly captured the writer's spirit in their version of American Psycho. Here, however, Roger Avary tops them all, with a movie that's as stylistically bold as its content is unflinchingly honest.

If Avary's script input into Pulp Fiction was swept aside by Tarantino fever (as was his so-so directorial debut, Killing Zoe), then The Rules Of Attraction should at last give him the credit he deserves.

As he rewinds chunks of the action back to cross the story over to another character, he uses cinematic tricks that give the film a cooler-than-thou energy, but also underline the consequences of the characters' selfish behaviour.

These kids literally have no forward momentum, other than the fact that they're headed on a multiple collision course. The rewinds, split-screen sequence and speeded-up video diary of Victor's trip to Europe (a set-piece as remarkable as any in Pulp Fiction) make for an extremely self-conscious film language, but no more so than Ellis' prose.

Both author and director relish a style that, like their characters, struts around like a peacock proudly drawing attention to itself. As Sean, James Van Der Beek ruthlessly undermines his Dawson Creek image - almost the first time we see him he's in extreme close-up, his angry, red face straining during sex.

Perhaps Sossamon and Somerhalder's characters elicit more sympathy than most Ellis creations, but they are far from innocent. Avary is not trying to paper over harsh truths: an edgy mood of coked-up tension ripples through his campus parties, which aren't fun events but stalking grounds for couples on the lookout for loveless sex. Maybe early on, the director encourages us to laugh at the characters' pretensions. But when real pain enters into the fray, it hits the audience like a kick in the teeth.


Rules Of Attraction, The Rules Of Attraction, The
Released: 29 September 2003
The celebrated split screen sequence is discussed at length in an Anatomy Of A Scene documentary, which underlines the fact that motion control and digital effects are no longer limited to megabudget blockbusters — they can serve the imaginations of indie filmmakers too.

The various commentaries are a mixed bag: Sossamon witters charmingly enough, but Theresa Wayman ruins the impact she makes as the heartbreaking Food Service Girl with enough pretension to fill Private Eye’s luvvies column for months.

Avary saves the day with a hilarious account of his trip filming an in-character Kip Pardue as he debauched his way across Europe.

Too strong for most and you can bet critics will howl. But for our money, Avary filters American Pie through Requiem For A Dream to create America's Trainspotting. A breathtaking story told in breathtaking style.

Reviewed by Alan Morrison

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Average user rating for The Rules Of Attraction
Empire Star Rating

The Rules Of Attraction is best and most underrated film of the noughties, startling and electric in it's style and storytelling execution, it's simply full of stunning filmaking techniques, hugely inventive editing and cinematography that informs it's dark dislocated themes. It's horrific and grotesque one minute, hilarious and fun the next, dark and funny in constant see-saw. A rollercoaster of emotion, of highs and lows and ultimately an extremely sad movie, packed with memorable and classic ... More

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Posted by bilbomurphy at 22:01, 05 March 2012 | Report This Post

Stunning. A crude and painful comedy. Absolutely dark, bold and brilliant. ... More

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Posted by nc_jj at 00:26, 21 October 2008 | Report This Post

Amazing film that deserves cult status in years to come. Who knew Dawson had it in him...?! ... More

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Posted by helenverrell82 at 15:42, 19 October 2007 | Report This Post


Better than anything Tarantino's mustered since Pulp Fiction. ... More

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Posted by wooz at 14:16, 22 July 2007 | Report This Post

I'm a big Bret Easton Ellis fan (wrote the book the film is based on), so I knew I would pretty much love this film. The film is shot tastefully, and with stooping to the cliche'd or cheap laugh/ action depths it could have. It is a genuine protrayl of late teen life to a certain extent, and although it has been compared to the American's Trainspotting I would strongly disagree. It should be watched with the false illusion of 'American Pies' in your mind, as the realisations of these 'frat-pack'... More

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Posted by ukedge87 at 18:14, 08 October 2006 | Report This Post

... More

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Posted by rams at 06:15, 14 July 2006 | Report This Post

absolutely brilliant! i bought this entirely on a whim, and because it had a shiny box (yes, i am that shallow!) but i was completly surprised by it..a gorgeous cast, a perfect script, great original split screen work, funny dialogue, a plot i was interested in - although the who was writing the letters was blatently obvious...i love buying films i've never seen, but i love it more when they're as good as this! ... More

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Posted by maffew at 16:27, 20 April 2006 | Report This Post


This is a rare film, a highly polished turd. We know most teenagers on the brink of adulthood are selfish, twisted, arrogant sods, so why on Earth do we need to see Rich teenagers behave like selfish, twisted, arrogant sods? I found nothing to connect to in this film at all, it felt like one long drawn out tableaux of beautiful people doing ugly things to each other. This would've been better if it had been made in the 80s. Post 'Trainspotting', it just doesn't ring true. ... More

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Posted by TheMadFatChickKiller at 12:57, 17 February 2006 | Report This Post

rules of imagination

i was personally pretty impressed by sister thought it was awful but i found it dark,funny and at times very disturbing (that suicide scene i thought was superb!!),and it was nice seeing mr van der beek in a different role instead of cushy dawson,i rated it as one of the films of 2003 particularly because i didnt think there were a great deal of decent films in 2003.but this was certainly a good film without doubt.entertaining and original in parts,and there arent many films out there at t... More

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Posted by sweet at 20:15, 02 January 2006 | Report This Post

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