Monday, October 14

Dawson's Descent - Whether I liked The Rules of Attraction is beside the point. I admired the film’s production and casting choices. I was mesmerized by its cool camera tricks and non-linear narrative. And I recognized the fact that a movie about sullen, melancholic, disaffected youth is an attempt to break from the mainstream of Hollywood blockbusters like American Pie and Can’t Hardly Wait. These more typical teen movies feature the same kinds of themes and scenarios – parties, drinking, sex and love – but with very different results. You won’t find any happy endings in ROA, which paints a somewhat more realistic, but entirely bleak picture. ROA shows the lack of connection between people and the (intentional and unintentional) cruelty they can exact upon one another. ROA is the kind of movie you are supposed to appreciate because it breaks the mold by depicting thoroughly unredeemable characters and using inventive cinematographic tricks.

However, even with these genre-busting techniques being utilized, ROA still lacks the ferocity that made American Psycho both repulsive and campy. At least Sean’s brother Patrick showed some passion when he flipped out. James Van Der Beek’s Sean can’t seem to get very excited about anything. The Beek, desperately trying to break out of the Dawson mold (especially since his role in Storytelling was cut out) musters up some energy now and again, but for the most part, his character is devoid of emotion, which is an incredibly difficult role for any actor to play, but especially one of Beek’s limited range. To show anger, he gets a lot of mileage out of angling his head such that his giant forehead dominates the screen.

This movie, plays to the stereotype in My Big Fat Greek Wedding that WASPs are little more than emotionally-stunted drunks who are unable to find fulfillment. Even as the film goes out of its way to show plot development in a non-linear way, the characters lack any sense of future—no hope, no plans, no consequences. Sean unsuccessfully attempts suicide, but on a whim and with a half-assed execution. In the disturbingly energetic but emotionally dead world of a small Northeastern liberal arts colleges, everyone’s searching for their next high, where promiscuity is rewarded and virginity punished. Virgin Lauren ends up being raped at a party, but she seems resigned to the fact that it’s happening (and being videotaped). Therefore, the audience is more disturbed by the fact that the rapist pukes on her than the fact that he’s raping her. Ian Sommerhalder (who, I'm sorry John, desperately needs a haircut) probably does the best job of the whole cast, as a just-queeny-enough gayboy with the balls to go after hotties, even when they reject him.

Perhaps my favorite part of the movie was a lightening-quick summary of one character’s European vacation, featuring a non-stop voiceover and visuals quickly intercut. It is just one more example of the director’s fondness for using interesting distortions of time, scenes that run backwards, and depicting the same situation from multiple points of view. These tricks did maintain my interest in the movie even when the characters and plot didn’t, and they were better executed than in other films such as Go.

Apparently someone has already decided that a sequel would be a good idea. But I’m not so sure…I don’t think I could stomach another two hours with any of these characters, no matter how many visual gimmicks and storytelling devices the filmmakers could come up with.

Rules of Attraction: C+