I'll never understand Bret Easton Ellis' obsession with shallow insipid characters. 'The Rules of Attraction' is one of his novels which was adapted into a movie in 2002. With a cast of who's who from the period, 'The Rules of Attraction' weaves in and out of the sorry, sad lives of a group of college kids. They're hateful, depressed people who are so edgy and full of angst that they grab the bottle of alcohol right by the neck and take long thoughtless swigs. They're all drugged out of their minds, sexed out of their gourds, and they have nothing to show for it other than remorse for doing nothing their entire lives.
I've sat through numerous character pity parties over the years, and they never get any better. When your characters sit around blubbering about how horrible their lives are, but never try to change anything, what's the point? Why do we want to watch a bunch of self-loathing assholes feel sorry for themselves?
I recently sat through a movie at the Sundance Film Festival called 'I Melt With You'. Four old college friends get together for a week of drugs, alcohol, and women. They finally wise up, realize that none of them have done anything remotely good with their lives, and then they start offing themselves one by one. The problem there is you just don't care. Why should we invest our time and energy into people who don't care about anything?
'The Rules of Attraction' thinks it's smart. It spouts so much pseudo-intellectual bullshit during its voice-overs that you wonder if this is the anti-'Juno'. People complained about the hipster lingo in that movie, why weren't they up in arms when Sean Bateman (James Van Der Beek) declares with a straight face that he's an "emotional vampire" and then opines to himself as he swigs Jack Daniels straight from the bottle (soooo edgy) about who his next victim will be, "Search for this night's prey. Who will it be?"
Sean is the main focus here. He's a good-for-nothing user, who uses women and then leaves them high and dry. He's been receiving anonymous letters from some girl at the school who has a deep infatuation with him. He thinks that girl is Lauren Hynde (Shannyn Sossamon), but it's not. Instead she's in love with Victor (Kip Pardue) who is another waste of space who travels Europe in a quickly cut together montage of every debauched thing that can be done over there. Paul Denton (Ian Somerhadler) is gay and desperately wants to get with Sean. The problem is none of them actually care about trying to find out anyone's real feelings. They're all just superficial morons. I felt like I was watching a college version of Joel Schumacher's 'Twelve'.
Director Roger Avary does an amazing job with what he's given. In order to make the movie the least bit interesting, Avary displays all sorts of cinematic pyrotechnics. He has scenes that play on top of each other. After one storyline is done, we rewind back through the last scene to focus on another character. These tricks would be far more entertaining and useful in a movie with better source material.
Like 'The Informers', another one of Ellis' novels that's been adapted to film, 'The Rules of Attraction' is a slog through narcissism and misogyny. Somewhere in its puny head it thinks that it's trying to make a statement, when really all it does is make its viewing audience cringe. For example, the movie starts out with Lauren being senselessly raped. She doesn't fight back. The man raping her throws up on her back. She calmly walks outside after that experience and smokes a cigarette. I don't know what world 'The Rules of Attraction' lives in, but it certainly isn't this one. I for one am glad of that fact, if life was as dark and dreary as Ellis paints it to be, then we'd all be wallowing around in the mud right along with his hapless, joyless characters.
The 1080p picture afforded 'The Rules of Attraction's venture to Blu-ray is quite good.
For a catalogue title, I was impressed by its clarity and attention to detail. Avary is obsessed with the ultra-close-up. The camera shot that makes it so you can almost see right up the actor's nostrils. These close-ups provide a great amount of facial detail from pores to fine facial hair. Skintones appear natural in hue. Contrast is nice and balanced. Blacks do suffer from the occasional crushing. Some errant noise pops up on occasion, not all of the dirt and grime has been cleaned of this presentation. Shimmering is noticeable on hair and clothing with tightly packed patterns. There seems to be a digital encoding error where blocks briefly appear in frame at the 01:57 timestamp. Grain enthusiast will be pleased that the film's thick layer of grain has been preserved and hasn't been overly messed with by DNR.
Fans of 'The Rules of Attraction' should be very pleased with its video presentation on Blu-ray.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track is quite immersive.
For a talkative movie, its actually sporting quite a bit of surround sound to go around. Raucous parties harbor a wonderful amount of ambient noise from kids yelling from a far off distance to music blaring in the background. LFE is consistent and well-rounded giving off deep thumping bass as music blares or when Sean's motorcycle roars to life. Dialogue is crisp and clean, never getting lost in the movie's expansive soundstage.
The first commentary includes production designer Sharon Seymour, adult actor Ron Jeremy, actor Ian Somerhalder (Paul) and actor Russel Sams (Richard). Seymour discusses her role on the film and how she was concerned that the movie wasn't going to be able to look as good as it could have with a higher budget. Somerhalder gives an annoying commentary where he laughs and giggles his way through it. Later on Somerhalder and Sams discuss their scene at the dinner table. Yes, we also get to hear from adult star Ron Jeremy on this track because he's the piano player in the orgy party. He actually gives the most insightful commentary of them all, and discusses what it's like working with Avary, and how they're close friends.
The next commentary stars actress Shannyn Sossamon (Lauren), Theresa Wayman (Food Service Girl), Kip Pardue (Victor), and Clifton Collins Jr (Rupert). Sossamon's commentary is spotty, but she talks about how hard it was to do the voiceover for her character at the beginning. She also discusses the rape scene and how Avary actually wanted it to be even more graphic, but it ended up being cut down. For the most part though, Sossamon seems just out of it. Much like her character in the movie. Collins talks about his scene with Van Der Beek when he comes to visit him at his house. Wayman discusses her first day on set and talks about her experience being on her first movie. She also talks, in detail about what she was thinking during the suicide scene.
The third commentary on the disc features executive producer Jeremiah Samuels, composer Andy Milburn, actor Thomas Ian Nicholas (Mitchell), and actor Joel Michaely (Raymond). Milburn starts off the commentary. He's half of the duo of TomandAndy Music that composed the original music for the film. He discusses that he didn't only work on the music, but he also helped out with the sound composition and music. Samuels talks about how difficult it was to keep the movie interesting, because so much of the movie passes before the finds its own pace. Also, this commentary seems to suffer a bit as there are quite a few times where the sound seems to crackle and pop like the mic is turning on and off.
The fourth commentary features cinematographer Robert Brinkmann and second unit director Harry Ralston. Brinkmann talks about how hard it was to film the movie in such small confines, and how hard it was for the crew to hide from the camera. The vomit is also discussed. Cream of mushroom soup. Yum.
The last revolving door commentary features editor Sharon Rutter and actor Eric Szmanda (NYU Film Student). Rutter is the person to listen to here. She talks about how difficult it was to edit a film like this, and is very somber in her description of the movie.
Bret Easton Ellis has throngs of fans that love his stuff, but I just don't see what all the raving is about. 'The Rules of Attraction' is a narcissistic wasteland populated by degenerates, ingrates, and idiots. No one here gives a crap about anything. It's tough watching a movie where the characters essentially care about nothing and end up doing nothing as a consequence. Fans will be pleased with the audio and video presentations, and will enjoy the insane amount of commentaries that are on this disc. For fans only.