The Rules of Attraction: A novel written by Bret Easton Ellis. Published in 1987.  

    This book is kind of a difficult book about which to write.  It tells a school year at Camden College for a wide series of characters - starting in the fall of 1985.  The book staggers from person to person, detailing their exclusive perspectives on the world of drugs, sex, denial, longing and rejection...

    It deals mainly, however, with the three main characters:  Sean, Paul and Laura who are (or have been) involved with each other in some way - Paul is sleeping with Sean who loves Laura who loved Paul.  I think that's about the best description on the surface and it gets a bit more complicated...  You are allowed to see inside the heads of these characters and know how blind they are to each other, and their frustrating, one-sided relationships. 

This isn't a fantastic book, or even a greatly important book- not a show stopper; but it's one that evokes a specific type of emotion in me -  it pisses me off.  It's one that I've read several times and still makes me angry...but it's also dark and funny  I like books with variety. It's worth a read.

Addition as of Sept 23, 2002.

A film adaptation of the book will be released on October 11, 2002.  It was originally slated for release in April 2002 and then Sept 2002.  The film was originally given an NC-17 rating by the MPAA and had to be cut down for an R rating.

Directed by Roger Avary, Screenplay written by Bret Easton Ellis and Roger Avary.

Cast: (This is the list shown on IMDB)

Lauren: Abstinence is 100% safe, which is less of a percentage than...
Lara: Whatever, I don't care, I don't major in Math

The film version of The Rules of Attraction starts with a taste of Lauren's story. She informs us that she always knew it would turn out this way. She walks us through her night at The End Of the World Party. She wants to lose her virginity, and she will. We watch as she leads a possible NYU film student to a bedroom upstairs, using the promise of a joint as bait. She's OK with her choice, he is no Victor, but he is cute enough. Once upstairs, she promptly passes out. She wakes up to being raped by a townie while the boy from NYU films the scene. She complains about the pain, yet says it isn't as bad as what she was anticipating. Two guys walk in with a keg, but the film student kicks them out- they are in danger of ruining the shot.

The movie rewinds, literally, as the camera floats backwards through the party until it stops on Paul.

For the next few minutes the camera follows Paul's point of view as he hands a guy a beer and suggests they take some E. Of course, the guy is straight and flips out after Paul comes on to him. Paul ends up flat on his back on the floor of the hallway. A group of girls had been standing outside of the room they were in, and the camera begins to follow one of the girls as she walks away.

The film moves backwards through time again until it finds Sean, who's only just gotten to the party and who clearly had the shit kicked out of him recently.

Sean tears up a purple piece of paper, tosses it in the trash and sets his sights on a blonde. He's already slept with her, but she can't place where she knows him from. He tells her that his name is Peter and debates a few different options for the night, including taking her for coffee and then leaving her with the bill. He ends up taking her back to his room.

The opening credits move the film back in time a semester at the fictional college of Camden, a lovely liberal arts school set somewhere in New England (although it was filmed in Southern California). Through the visual cues of falling snow and changing leaves, the time frame for the movie is set. The backwards motion comes off as bit cheesy at first, but the more you watch it, the more you should be able to appreciate the careful planning to make the rewinds seem fluid. Once the credits bring the movie to the beginning of the story, movement through the plot stays pretty linear, but still never gives a clear indication of how much time is passing between major plot points.

To make the plot simple and to avoid giving away everything in the film...

Sean Bateman, a drug-dealer who doesn't feel satisfied unless the girl he is with gets off, played by Dawson, has been getting love letters in the mail. Scented purple paper love letters with a certain stalker quality to them. He thinks they are from Lauren.

Lauren (played by Shannyn Sossamon from A Knight's Tale and 40 Days and 40 Nights), a punky skater chick has been trying to hold on to her virginity while her former boyfriend that she pines for, Victor (played by Kip Pardue from Driven, Remember the Titans and But I'm A Cheerleader) , is gallivanting around Europe. Before going out to parties she looks at the pictures of venereal diseases in a medical dictionary to prevent random hooking-up, much to the dismay of her roommate Lara. Lara is your typical coke-snorting college slut, who really wants to just be held, played by Jessica Biel. You might remember her from the WB show Seventh Heaven... yes, the one about the minister and his family.

Add to the mix Paul, a gay boy who's gaydar could use some fine tuning. The plot summary on indicated that Lauren and Paul have in fact dated, but this isn't spelled out within the context of the film.

Lion's Gate put out a website on the film- It is flash-heavy fun that connects the dots between the characters and is worth a look, especially if you want to get a better feel for the style of the film.

People who aren't familiar with American Psycho/ The Rules of Attraction aren't going to catch that the two films are tied together- Sean is Patrick Bateman's younger brother. The only reason I even knew was that I saw an interview with Van der Beek who mentioned it. Kavan Reece is credited with playing Bateman in the film, but if the character was actually in the movie I didn't catch it.

Van Der Beek does an excellent job of playing a drugged out asshole. He's disturbing in a way that is definitely reminiscent of his older brother, and it makes one wonder what is the root of the problems in the Bateman family. He even goes as far as to refer to himself as a vampire out to prey on the emotions of others. I've never been a big Dawson's Creek fan, but Van Der Beek earned my respect for this role.

The characters range from mildly entertaining to interesting to absolutely intriguing, but there are so many of them that the uninteresting ones quickly fade from memory and are typically only in one or two scenes. By far, the most interesting character is Dick Jared, who is so over the top insane that you can't help but laugh.

Roger Avary both wrote the screenplay and directed the film. Previously Avary directed Killing Zoe and worked with Quentin Tarantino on Resevoir Dogs, True Romance, and Pulp Fiction. He even tosses in a Tarantino reference into the opening sequence.

The film is full of pop culture references, some of which only true consumers of all things pop will appreciate. Examples include:

  • Eric Stoltz plays Lance Lawson, a pot-smoking professor who likes to cheat on his wife with his students. He first turns up at a large party as the older guy in the young crowd... it reminded me of the party scene at his character's home in Say Anything.
  • Swoosie Kurtz, Faye Dunaway and Fred Savage all make cameos in the film. While Kurtz and Dunaway make excellent pill-popping mothers, Savage clearly takes the cake for his role. Never did I think I would see young Kevin Arnold shooting up.
  • I never noticed Ron Jeremy... but they say he is in the movie.
  • And, I have to have a special place in my heart for any movie that references The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari.

Although the book was set in 1985, I am convinced the movie is set in the early to mid 90's.The Tarantino reference alone, as well as some of the music choices (which includes a song by including a song by Milla Jovovich) puts it at least in the 90's.

Because of these factors and the age of the characters, there is something familiar about the film. It sounds like what I remember college sounding like; it looks like what I remember college looking like. Although my personal college experience was nothing like that of the kids in the movie, I found myself thinking about stupid things I did years ago and being thankful I didn't grow up a spoild rich kid.

The film isn't going to be for everyone. I am willing to bet that this movie will do poorly at the box office because most people aren't going to appreciate it. The film has been carefully and skillfully constructed, but unfortunately most of the details will soar high above the general public's head.

To an extent, I think you have to be a certain age to appreciate many of the film's details. For example, Lawson has a dimmer switch for the lights in his office. This cracked me up. A girl behind me didn't appreciate my laughter at the sight of this. I really wanted to turn around to her and say "If you can't appreciate why a dimmer switch on the wall of a professor's office is amusing, why are you bothering watching this?"

If you think that Limp Bizkit did the original version of the song "Faith," then you are likely to fall into the crowd that misses out on half the reasons why the film is so fascinating to watch. Also, if you are still in high school, wait until after your first semester of college to see this movie. You will appreciate it more after putting a few college keg parties under your belt.

People expecting something cuddly and cute from the WB stars are going to be sadly disappointed. A lot of people in the theater groaned at the sight of two men kissing. Drug use is frequent and excessive, and while it will make some people uncomfortable, it will make others drool.

In spite of all the people who will likely be put off by the film, there will be the people who love it.

I met a young woman whose body was burning
Her hair aflame in waves of scarlet
And her lips smoking fluorescent blue--
The crimson tide laps at her skin
Pulling her


Into the watery depths of her porcelain coffin
Eyes blinking, gasping

and one dead hand extended
In a final cry for help
I met a young woman whose body was burning...

To tie it in with The Rules of Attraction... I wrote this in reference to the bathtub scene; I used to be that girl and it seeing that just made me... ache.

A movie containing the most difficult to view scene I've ever encountered. If you haven't seen it, now would be an opportune time to stop reading.

Depiction of suicide in movies has never been a particularly easy thing for me to watch; however, the suicide scene in this movie was particularly difficult. It was so meticulously shot. It wasn't your average depressed character has a razor -cut- average depressed character is dead in bloody pool. They make you watch her cut. Watch her bleed. Watch her cry. Watch her die. It hurts. It brings forth memories best kept back.

On top of the scenes detail, is its shock. She was not a main character, not yet anyway. She had been faceless thus far, or rather her face was assumed to be that of another. We didn't really know who this girl was, we just knew that her heart had been broken, and that she could take no more.

It hurt to watch such a truthful recreation of one of the most horrible things I can think of, but it was a hurt that reminded me what it is to want to live. I applaud the film makers on their accuracy, but do not look forward to watching the scene again.

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