Heroes of the Zeroes: The Rules of Attraction
Heroes of the Zeroes is Nick Rogers’ daily, alphabetical look back at the 365 best films of 2000-2009.
“The Rules of Attraction”
Bret Easton Ellis characters exist in such a nihilistic wallow that even a smile must be caused by some evil desire lurking beneath their flesh. If that sounds like Patrick Bateman of “American Psycho,” wait until you see the developmental dastardliness of his baby brother, Sean.
In 2002’s “The Rules of Attraction,” writer/director Roger Avary (“Pulp Fiction”) took a crack at Ellis’ bleak view of college in a movie stamped with bravura filmmaking, an impeccable soundtrack and a stereotype-shattering performance from James Van Der Beek as Sean.
Like “Psycho,” the rough brutality didn’t cater to all tastes. Sean was but one character dabbling in rampant sex, drug use, sad masturbation and attempted suicide. Having undergone slight cuts to avoid an NC-17, the film played exactly as you would have expected it to — with seedy dramatic intensity and bracingly adult content.
In a safer movie, Sean would come around in the end. But his rampant talk of self-improvement is bogus, and we know it. Van Der Beek cleverly angles around Sean’s lecherous actions to provide a fascinating mental picture of apathy.
Avary wisely weaves his camera tricks into the film’s narrative. And “Attraction” contains what remains one of the Zeroes’ most impressive, but disturbing, scenes — a suicide set to Harry Nilsson’s “Without You.” (Paired with Mary Harron’s “Psycho” adaptation, “Rules” could make up a songs-defined-by-movies list by itself.)
“Rules” achieved rare greatness: a film in which the director made the viewer feel a hatred for the characters as deep as his own.