Roger Avary’s sorely underrated adaptation of one of Bret Easton Ellis’ better novels follows the overprivileged, spoiled students of a fictional New England university as they traverse a collegiate landscape (or is it mindscape?) of endless parties, drugs, sex and Saturday morning classes that get canceled (or perhaps never existed in the first place), all set to a hypnotic Tomandandy score. James Van Der Beek (quite good at being despicable) plays Sean Bateman (yes, the brother of Patrick from American Psycho, though his brief supporting role in the book didn’t make the translation to film), a manipulative Don Juan who believes his spiritual and moral redemption may lie in the form of a pretty art student named Lauren (Shannyn Sossamon), but not before he scores with a naive freshman (Kate Bosworth) or two; meanwhile, Lauren’s roommate Lara (Jessica Biel) bangs the entire football team as Paul (Ian Somerhalder) struggles with his bisexuality and Victor (Kip Pardue) delivers a high-speed monologue summarizing his decadent impromptu tour of Europe (the film’s tour de force highlight). As you can see, The Rules of Attraction is more of a series of vignettes than a cohesive narrative, but then again, so was the book — and, in both cases, it works. The cast is top-notch, though it’s Avary’s creative, playful and confident direction that keeps it from ever being tedious (if not self-indulgent); why he hasn’t made a feature film since is anyone’s guess, unless he’s still harboring resentment toward Quentin Tarantino for taking all the credit for Pulp Fiction.
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