A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this movie contains many elements that they wouldn't want their kids to see. The first scene alone of a horribly demeaning date-rape is followed by a nonstop montage designed to shock the most jaded of college party kids, let alone their parents. Sex is pervasive, casual and often described in excruciating detail. Drugs are ubiquitous and feature no downsides beyond the occasional bloody nose or fight with a dealer. Alcohol is more prevalent than soda. The bathtub suicide of one of the minor characters is so devoid of emotion that the laying out of the razor blade is as casual as removing one's rings.
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What's the story?
Based on Brett Easton Ellis' book, RULES OF ATTRACTION is set at fictional Camden College, where the young, wealthy and white escape reality through sex, alcohol and drugs. The story alternates perspectives and time lines while focusing on several campus parties. Bi and beautiful Paul Denton (Ian Somerhalder) loves self-described "emotional vampire" and part-time drug dealer Sean Bateman (James Van Der Beek), who in turn loves the doe-eyed and virginal Lauren Hynde (Shannyn Sossamon) who loves self-absorbed Victor (Kip Pardue). To stir up the party, Sean sleeps with Lara (Jessica Biel), Lauren's roommate, as a proxy, while Paul has a nostalgic fling with long-time friend Richard "Dick" Jared (Russell Sams). Notable cameos include Eric Stoltz as a student-seducing professor; Faye Dunaway as Paul's tipsy mother; and a cocaine-dusted Clifton Collins, Jr. as unpredictable drug dealer Rupert.
Is it any good?
Roger Avary has done a good job of adapting Ellis' multi-perspective narrative into a slick, visually dynamic movie. Ellis' books have all dealt with similar 1980's themes from different perspectives and have woven in references to characters from his other works. For example, Rules of Attraction protagonist, Sean Bateman, is younger brother to American Psycho's Patrick Bateman. Avary's backward-forward filming and present-past-present timing gradually reveal the story, but he cannot put content into what is, in the end, an empty tale.
Although the movie is set in the present day, the strong influence of the book and Avary's decision to weave in references to Ellis' other books keeps a '80's zeitgeist. The times having changed so dramatically over the years: the end of the Cold War; the flannel-clad nihilism descending from the Seattle scene; the disappearance of the rich, white boy as the movie bad guy; the return of heroin. But perhaps, most importantly, the world did not end.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about why some people rely upon drugs as a crutch and be sure to discuss the film's bleak portrayal of adult drug use as well as that of the college kids. Other issues to be discussed include the connection or lack of connection between the characters and the consequences of the choices we make.
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