Seven years after Roger Avary won an Oscar for his work on Pulp Fiction, he jumped behind the camera for his second directorial feature, The Rules of Attraction. It was ranting guntoters meets Bret Easton Ellis, thrown on a university campus, and led by a parade of good TV stars going bad, from 7th Heaven’s Jessica Biel sleeping with the whole football team to Dawson’s Creek’s James Van Der Beek selling drugs and The Wonder Years’ Fred Savage become a stoner loser. Hit the jump for my review of The Rules of Attraction on Blu-ray:
A “skillfully made movie about reprehensible people,” as Roger Ebert called it, The Rules of Attraction never found its footing, but now it’s getting a new life on Blu-ray.
The film follows the exploits of a group of people at Camden College – Lauren (Shannyn Sosssamon), an uber-funky and down-to-earth girl who uses pictures of genital deformities to kill her sex drive; Lara (Biel), her loose roommate who will bed anyone (even Lauren’s crushes); Sean Bateman (Van Der Beek), brother of the American Psycho, and a drug dealer; Paul (Ian Somerhalder), a gay kid lusting for Sean while dealing with his over-emotional friends; and Victor (Kip Pardue), a horny kid who sleeps with so many girls that he doesn’t remember them all. They’re surrounded by the supporting players, a who’s who of names including Kate Bosworth, Jay Baruchel, Eric Stoltz, Clifton Collins Jr., Faye Dunaway, Swoosie Kurtz, and Ron Jeremy.
It’s almost two hours of sexual, college dysfunction as Lauren makes terrible choices in the love department, including a foray with professor Stoltz, Paul blatantly hits on Sean as he, in turn, lusts for Lauren. But to twist things up, he loves her because of sexy, anonymous notes in his mailbox, that he’s sure Lauren sent, but they’re really from a quiet food service girl (Theresa Wayman of Warpaint). It’s the usual existential detachment but without the sparkling pecs of Psycho’s Christian Bale or charisma of Less Than Zero’s Robert Downey Jr.
Nevertheless, Rules of Attraction is engagingly dark cult movie, one overflowing with abhorrent characters mixed with some fleeting moments of relatable humanity, all set to super-catchy retro tunes in pure Tarantino/Ellis style including The Cure, Erasure and Harry Nilsson’s cover of “Without You.”
On Blu-ray, the film is beautiful and sounds great. Robert Brinkmann’s cinematography and Avary’s split screens, fast-forwarding and rewinding look great widescreen and crisp. This “unrated” version is almost exactly like the original, but with a few extra shots of boobs and sex mixed in for good measure. (Perhaps the bits cut to take the film from NC-17 to R.)
Unfortunately, while the disc might boast a ton of commentaries, they’re nothing new – all were available on the original DVD release, including the so-called “mystery guest,” Carrot Top. (There’s no mention of filmmaker Avary, not listed on the revolving door options, though he does pop up with Pardue to discuss Victor’s European vacation, one of the commentaries’ best moments). To make matters worse, the other key special feature on the original, Sundance Channel’s “Anatomy of a Scene” is missing from this release, likely the victim of rights issues, which leaves only the revolving doors and Carrot Top’s cinematic words of wisdom as added bits for fans.
This is the release made for the people who want Rules of Attraction on their Blu-ray shelves and those tantalized by the “unrated” sticker, not for those looking for a special-feature-saturated disc.