It has been a long time coming, but at last we have a revolutionary new effort from the teen film arena. “Rules of Attraction” is the anti-American Pie, but like that film it injects new life and energy into a genre many considered worked to the bone. “American Pie” combined gross out gags with sentimental tales of friendship and growing up to appeal to the genuine sweethearts out there.
“Rules” on the other hand is for the other 95% of us, the hardened cynics of the world who like their comedy with bite, their drama in-your-face, and their films with a twisted sense of style and energy. Director Roger Avary has succeeded in that aspect to give us one of this year’s film highlights, a new “Go” but with a deeper story and more compelling characters.
Within the opening five minutes you’ll quickly get a sense of what this film’s style is. At any one point it can be out and out slapstick funny, satirically morbid, gross out in a realistic non-joke sense, and personally tragic the next. Avary then combines that with some offbeat camera work including shooting scenes ‘backwards’ and then starting them up but from the perspective of a different character, this makes it essential to telling the story and not just a neat camera trick.
Still its the strong cast and the hormonally-fuelled antics that keep this baby chugging along. Is this the best performance of Van Der Beek’s career? Absolutely. The newly pumped up ‘Beek’ doesn’t entirely shrug off his Dawson Leery image but that’s what makes his part so fun is that he plays completely against it – a rude, insensitive pussy hound. After, lets face it a somewhat forced turn in “A Knight’s Tale”, Sossamon truly shines in ‘Rules’. Of all the characters she’s arguably the most ‘pure’ and sympathetic which makes some of the events that happen to her that much more devastating.
Somerhalder, whose been relegated to supporting status in his work so far, finally breaks through here with one of the film’s more memorable roles as Paul – a sexually voracious bisexual pretty boy who has a thing for Sean and seducing insecure straight boys. Biel plays up the slut image to great effect and shows off an incredible body in skimpy underwear most of the time.
Russell Sams steals every moment he’s in as Richard, the son of a friend of Paul’s mother and an ex fuck buddy of Paul. Not only do the pair get to whoop it up to a George Michael theme and play footsies, but Richard just goes over the top insane insulting his mother during a hilarious sequence at a rather swank bar. Stoltz has two fun scenes but is little more than a cameo, ditto for Clare Kramer (Glory on “Buffy”) who gets only two lines or so and the likes of Fred Savage, Faye Dunaway and Swoosie Kurtz have fun one-scene appearances.
Whilst there is nudity ranging from quick snatch shots at an “Eyes Wide Shut”-esque party to what appeared to be a brief flash of Kip Pardue’s dick during one sequence, its not as much as you may think and in fact its that every character snorts about a truckload of coccaine which’ll have a hard time getting through.
One scene in particular I hope makes it because it’ll be remembered long after – a very long and drawn out but frighteningly realistic sequence which takes a tune made famous by a Mariah Carey cover and gives it a whole new meaning. Its one of several times in the film where the light playful sense of fun has lead you into a vulnerable position which is when something like this will pop up and hit you like a cold handed slap in the face.
That’s what makes ‘Rules’ stick in the memory long after the light one-liners by Biel or James Van Der Beek’s constant cunnilingual obsession disappears, in many ways this is a tragic film showing us characters which many will envy at first for the amount partying and fun they get to have, and then gradually come to feel pity for as each one has pretty much deluded themselves into believing they’ve found love.
In many ways this film is all about how even spoiled brats like this try desperately to avoid that feeling we all have (especially in our teen years) – loneliness. Still I’m getting too serious here. ‘Rules’ above everything else is a blast, its so great to finally see the first film in a long while that’s filled with an abundance of vitality and playful fun (and a great score of 80’s classics). This really has the chance to be a huge (and deserved) hit – break out the lube, the rolled up notes and the syringes because its party time.