“I can’t believe you haven’t seen that!” – Ted Flint, referring to Rules of Attraction, upon hearing about my undying love for Dawson’s Creek and late 90’s and early 2000’s teen flicks.
With the 2002 film’s star-studded cast that includes James Van Der Beek, Jessica Biel and Kate Bosworth, whose recent works at the time included lighthearted material such as Dawson’s Creek, 7th Heaven and Blue Crush, I was expecting something along the lines of Can’t Hardly Wait, Drive Me Crazy or 10 Things I Hate About You. I was so, so wrong.
Within the first five minutes, there’s a date rape scene involving vomit and a film student in the corner with a video camera. The rest of the film includes a wrist-slitting suicide in a dorm bathroom, a failed suicide attempt involving a telephone cord noose and a fake suicide complete with fake blood.
The plot revolves around a love triangle between Sean Bateman (James Van Der Beek), a drug dealer and womanizer who is in love with the virginal Lauren (Shannyn Sossamon) but is being pursued by the shameless bisexual, Paul Denton (Ian Somerhalder) who coincidentally used to date Lauren. Meanwhile, Lauren is saving herself for her Victor (Kip Pardue) who spends the majority of the film exploring Europe. The characters attend Camden College and spend the majority of their days doing a variety of drugs, sleeping with each other and attending wild and unrealistic college parties.
In short, if American Pie and Trainspotting had a one-night stand gone horribly wrong, resulting in a pregnancy, the baby would be this movie.
Even after watching Rules of Attraction three times, I still have some questions.
Did Lauren ever date Victor?
Throughout the film, she refers to him as her boyfriend, old boyfriend and overall dream boy. She keeps a framed photo of him by her bed and uses him, along with a medical book of venereal diseases, as a deterrent for losing her virginity. Once he returns from his semester abroad (which is depicted in a 3-minute montage of home video footage of him sleeping and snorting his way through Europe), Lauren appears at his door ecstatic to see him, and he has absolutely no idea who she is. Did they ever date? Did she hallucinate their relationship? Did all the acid he dropped in London erase any memory he had of Lauren? I need to know.
Where can I find a friend like Richard?
Richard, or Dick as he prefers to be called, is a family friend and former fling of Paul Denton’s who is featured in only one scene throughout the entire movie, which happens to be my favorite scene. His limited presence is unfortunate because he is by far the most hilarious character. I need a friend like Richard, who I can dance with on a hotel bed while George Michael plays in the background, and then cause a scene at a fancy restaurant, not phasing our pill-popping upper-class mothers.
Does Shannyn Sossamon have super powers?
First off, she manages to have a haircut that looks like it was done by a drunk toddler, yet she’s the most beautiful actress in this film, and any film, for that matter. Stunning. Second of all, in 40 Days and 40 Nights, she climaxed without even being touched. Granted, she did have Josh Hartnett lying next to her blowing an orchid petal around on her bare body, but I still think that supernatural powers had to be involved. Lastly, she seemed to have gained decades worth of acting experience in the mere months between the releases of 40 Days and 40 Nights and Rules of Attraction. It would take mythical powers to improve the poor and cheap acting we saw from her and every other character in 40 Days and 40 Nights, and transform it into the charming character of Lauren in Rules of Attraction.
What happens to the dead girl’s body?
A girl who is simply referred to as the Food Service Girl admires Sean Bateman from afar, sends him love notes (who he thinks are from Lauren), and then kills herself by slitting her wrists in the dorm bathroom when he sees Sean leave the party with Lauren’s roommate, Lara (Jessica Biel).
Lauren walks into her room to find Sean putting on his clothes after hooking up with Lara, and then she runs to the bathroom crying and finds a dead body in the tub. She pulls the naked body out of the tub, clearly distressed. This is all occurs at night. The next scene begins with a body bag being carried to an ambulance outside the college, during daylight hours. WHAT TOOK SO LONG? Does nobody know how to call 911? Did Lauren just leave the body in the bathroom overnight, waiting for it to be found by someone else? It would seem fitting that the Food Service Girl, who was never given a real name or noticed by the boy she was in love with, was forgotten in a dirty dorm bathroom. Were the doctors at the local hospital too busy dealing with college kid overdoses (my second favorite scene) to arrive on-scene to remove the corpse? We’ll never know.
What kind of parents were Mr. and Mrs. Bateman?
Here’s fun twist: Rules of Attraction is based on a novel of the same name, written by Bret Easton Ellis and published in 1987. Ellis also wrote the novel, American Psycho, which was made into a movie in 2000. American Psycho’s Patrick Bateman (Christian Bale), the Wall Street Executive and serial killer, is an older brother to Rules of Attraction’s Sean Bateman.
What kind of parents raised two womanizing sons who lack any empathy whatsoever? Were the parents abusive? Were they both busy professionals who never nurtured nor disciplined their children? Did they ever sit the boys down and say, “Okay children, do not deal drugs, have sex with the roommate of the girl you’re in love with, kill a man because you’re jealous of his business card, hire prostitutes to fight each other while filming them or throw a chainsaw down a spiral staircase in hopes that it falls on the hooker you are chasing?” Apparently not. Or if so, the boys clearly did not listen.
Why did I feel satisfaction when Jessica Biel’s character was punched in the face?
It’s very apparent that Sean is heartless. The only way he “sheds a tear” in the entire film is when a snowflake melts down his cheek. (A stark difference from Dawson Leery.) But his love for Lauren is the first time we see that he actually has emotions and could care for someone. But what does Lara, Lauren’s roommate, do? Seduces him. She also has sex with Victor. Lara sucks. Now I would never hope that a woman gets punched in the face, but she kind of deserved it.
Where did Sean ride off to on his motorcycle?
The movie ends with all members of the love triangle heartbroken. Lauren loses her virginity via rape. Paul is once again rejected by a man. Sean is beat up by his drug dealers and medicates his loss of Lauren by hooking up with Kate Bosworth’s character. As Lauren and Paul stand outside in the snow, realizing they have lost the innocence and hope they once felt at the beginning of the semester, they watch Sean ride off on his motorcycle. We hear a voiceover from Sean, describing his loss of Lauren, when he stops mid-sentence and the screen goes black and the credits begin to roll. It was straight-up Sopranos finale style.
Common sense tells us that there is no happy ending when a drunk and depressed college student rides off on a motorcycle in high speeds into a blizzard. But maybe he took a ride to clear his head, arrives back at the college safely and professes his love for Lauren and they have a long happy life together. I have personally chosen to believe that he rides back to Capeside, Massachusetts, leaves his dark life behind and takes back his former identity as the whiney good boy and emotional Dawson Leery and devotes his entire life to winning over Joey Potter.
. . .
I went into this movie expecting a poppy teen comedy, which makes sense since that’s what it was marketed as. However, the film’s director, Roger Avary saw it as “the assassination of teen comedies.” I could not agree more. The movie made me cringe, laugh, then cringe at myself for laughing at something so dark. I’ll watch it again. But until then, I’ll be binge watching Dawson’s Creek, trying to redeem the vast amount of innocence I lost while viewing this film.
I do know. And you don’t know until you do know. And you have to go there to know. – Victor, explaining his travels abroad to his peers, just like any college student who has ever studied abroad. This may be the only detail about college life that this movie depicts accurately.
I need you like I need an asshole on my elbow. – Rupert, Sean Bateman’s drug supplier
I only had sex with her because I’m in love with you. – Sean Bateman
Since when does f*cking somebody else mean that I’m not faithful to you? – Sean Bateman
Rock n’ roll. – Sean Bateman