Rules of Attraction
Attracted to depravity
By Victoria Alexander

"This is just beer, right?"

Rules of Attraction is based on a book by Bret Easton Ellis. Since I never read fiction, I can only critique the film.

I loved Mary Harron's adaptation of Ellis' American Psycho (I didn't read it either) and the blurry icon status it has given protagonist Patrick Bateman. Rules of Attraction's director/writer Roger Avary's take on interlocking vignettes about college life of "some kids, not yours" is impressively stylistic-hopefully softening up filmgoers for anarchist Jonas Akerlund's crystal meth anthem Spun. (If it ever gets released.)

Rules of Attraction revolves principally around the sex and drug meanderings of Patrick Bateman's little brother Sean (James Van Der Beek) who is a drug dealer; Paul (Ian Somerhalder), a gay predator; and Lauren (Shannyn Sossamon), a moody student who is saving herself for her boyfriend, Victor (Kip Pardue). Nobody goes to class, works, or studies. They take drugs and have sex. Like "some kids, not yours."

Avary intrudes and shows off with bravado camerawork, but the dark mood and frail lives he showcases are uncompromisingly truthful. There are inspired set pieces that stand out: The forward motion/back motion time-lapse that begins the film (everyone is on ecstasy, drunk, or stoned so reality is under leather constraints); the deliciously funny bed dance between Paul and his ex-lover Dick (Richard Sams) that runs a close second to Cruise's Risky Business dance, and their dinner with their numbed mothers (Faye Dunaway and Swoozie Kurtz); Dick's performance at dinner is hysterical (Sams takes his small role and captures the movie); the brilliant speed-tour through Europe with Victor; and all the teen sex.

Sean prides himself on being a sexual vampire who finds himself lusting after anorexic, messy Lauren (even though she has a gorgeous, sexually available roommate played by Jessica Biel), believing she is anonymously sending him love letters. Paul wants Sean and they have a "fantasized" sexual encounter. Lauren wants to give her virginity to Victor, though she does orally pleasure her creepy teacher, played by Eric Stoltz.

Sean is a terrible, unredeemable character and Avary intentionally films Van Der Beek unflatteringly, exaggerating his hard, long face. Van Der Beek is rather good playing cruel. No one would want to claim these kids as their own-but that doesn't mean Rules of Attraction is not a blunt, accurate portrait of college life somewhere involving "some kids, not yours."

The vignettes are narrated by the characters using inappropriate language; but still, it rings true and quite funny. If its life-affirming cinema you are looking for, you'll have to look elsewhere. But, thank God for choices.