The Rules of Attraction (2002)

7.5 Overall Score
Story: 7/10
Acting: 8/10
Visuals: 8/10

Some fun moments and a nice attempt to move beyond a standard romance-drama or comedy

Sometimes tries too hard, some may not like characters with no moral compass

Movie Info

Movie Name:  The Rules of Attraction

Studio:  Lions Gate Films

Genre(s):  Drama/Comedy

Release Date(s):  October 11, 2002

MPAA Rating:  R


So, this whole college thing kind of sucks…

College can be a difficult time…especially when it is filled with self-centered students.  Lauren Hynde (Shannyn Sossamon) has aspirations of being with her traveling (and cheating) love Victor Johnson (Kip Pardue) but finds herself attracted to drug-using sexual predator Sean Bateman (James van der Beek).  Paul Denton (Ian Somerhalder) wants Sean as well and thinks he wants him too.  Sex is the goal and all three characters want what they can’t have.

Directed by Roger Avary, The Rules of Attraction adapts the 1987 novel by Bret Easton Ellis.  The film was a box-office flop but since its release has gained a strong cult following along with being listed as under-seen films.


Nope…perfectly normal here…

I am not a fan of Bret Easton Ellis’ writing.  I read and saw American Psycho and didn’t love either of them.  Most of Ellis’ novels and stories tie together and this film is no different.  Sean Bateman is the brother of American Psycho’s main character Patrick Bateman…and has some similar mindsets.  The movie had plans to bring Patrick Bateman to The Rules of Attraction but Christian Bale did not want to participate and a scene with Casper Van Dien as Patrick Bateman was cut from the film.

I did enjoy this film probably a bit more than American Psycho.  I thought the writing was rather clever and how the film played with time was also interesting.  The concept of misplaced love is nothing new, but the decision to make all the characters so self-centered added a new twist to the story…I can’t say I found any of them particularly likable, but in this situation it is ok…it almost creates a difference between love and sex (and blurs the lines between them).


Side-by-side instead of sideways

The movie is a nice turn for James van der Beek who was attempting to break his Dawson’s Creek mode at this point.  He isn’t as good as Christian Bale in American Psycho, but he does play an effective psycho in his own way.  Shannyn Sossamon’s character probably gets the “nice” award for the movie but even her character is self-centered (she’s more disgusted she loses her virginity to a townie rather than the fact she’s being raped).  Ian Somerhalder plays the gay character who could have been likable if he had just been the misunderstood outsider, but instead he too is rather absorbed in himself.  Other actors appearing include Kip Pardue as the “boyfriend” of Lauren who doesn’t remember her, Fred Savage as a heroin junkie, Jessica Biel as Lauren’s roommate, Kate Bosworth as another of Sean’s conquests, Eric Stoltz as Lauren’s seducing teacher, Paul Williams as a bizarre doctor, and Faye Dunaway and Swoosie Kurtz playing the mothers of Somerhalder and his friend.


Victor’s speed vacation

The movie is very stylish.  Like American Psycho, The Rules of Attraction isn’t like a Quentin Tarantino type of stylish but in the same vein.  The slick film feels like Tarantino-lite and a bit cheaper looking but still a step above high school comedies like American Pie in its look.

The Rules of Attraction is a fun movie with faults.  I am ok with characters that aren’t nice as long as the characters serve a purpose in their actions.  Some could be frustrated by the intentionally cut ending, but I do find it quite amusing…and tied to the unfulfilled release of sexual tension for the characters.

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Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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