The Rules of Attraction (1998) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski) and Tuna


Scoop's notes

You remember Patrick Bateman? He's the fictional killer immortalized in Bret Easton Ellis's novel, American Psycho, a black comedy which was made into a fairly interesting movie. The Rules of Attraction is another novel by the same author, and features Patrick Bateman's younger brother, Sean, as a campus drug pusher. Sean is played by the Dawson's Creek dude.

Sean seems cold-hearted enough to be a drug dealer, but he has absolutely no success collecting what people owe him. His supervisors in the global evil drug lord empire are just not pleased with this situation, so they are always either hurting him or threatening to hurt him.

When Sean is not being roughed up by the evil minions of the Columbian drug lords, he is bent on fulfilling the sexual fantasies of almost all of his fellow students, both male and female. When the other kids are not hitting on him, they are writing anonymous love notes to him. I think it goes without saying that the only person he has any genuine interest in is a sweet virginal girl who doesn't care for him and is saving it all for her boyfriend, who is in Europe. Said boyfriend, of course, is hanging out in European bordellos and picking up any woman available anywhere on the Continent. When Mr. Europe finally returns, his sweet girl makes her way immediately to his room, only to find him already engaged in various lustful practices with others.

Dawson practices the subtle facial expressions which have kept his phone ringing with offers from Vince McMahon.

Sean runs his drug operation at the ultimate party school, Camden College. Since there is a wild party there every night, special occasions must be marked by truly epochal events like the "dress like you want to get laid" party. Most people simply come naked. There is only one teacher in this entire college, played by Eric Stoltz with some kind of crazy European accent, and his only goal is to get blow jobs from his female students. He won't have vaginal sex with them, however, because "he could lose his tenure." Apparently the invisible president of Camden College is Bill Clinton.

The entire movie is cooked up with photographic tricks and gimmicks. The film goes backwards. There are stops and re-starts and fast cut scenes. The European trip is summarized in about two minutes with a voice-over, a gazillion cuts, and lots of crazy tinted footage. The film makes a laborious commitment to hipness. Unfortunately, one cannot decide to be hip, and the very act of trying assures failure. Overall, it's about as hip as a 50 year old guy hanging out at college bars and calling people "dawg."

It is an ugly, mean, unpleasant, misanthropic and often stupid movie. Of course, I am an ugly, mean, unpleasant, misanthropic and stupid guy, so I kinda liked it. Your mileage may vary.


DVD info from Amazon.

  • Widescreen letterboxed 1.85:1.

  • there are some short "making of" features

  • there are about a half-dozen different commentary tracks - including a full-length commentary by Carrot Top. (I don't know why)



  • Theresa Wayman does full-frontal nudity in a bloody bathtub.
  • Kip Purdue does full frontal nudity in the European sequence.
  • Several extras are seen naked at the "dress to get laid" party, including frontal nudity.


Tuna's notes

The actual attraction rules, as near as I could make out from this film, are as follows:

1) College students all have large muscle motor control problems, primarily with their genitals (they have no control over them).

2) Attraction is never mutual.

3) Most college students at some point attempt suicide. The real losers succeed.

4) Being a pusher is a sure path to popularity.

5) To be thought of as a slut, one must screw an entire football team.

6) Women are free to loose their virginity to a "townie," but men aren't allowed to screw a slut (for slut definition, see rule 5).

7) College students never study.

8) College students seldom go to classes.

9) Teachers screw undergraduates unless they are still married, in which case they just settle for blow jobs.

10) There are no morals that apply to Saturday night parties, except the one about not screwing a slut.

11) Date rape is the most popular intramural campus sport.

12) Running the same film forward and backward makes it easy to pad running time.

By now you have some idea that this film is about sexual success and excess, emotional and relationship failure, and heavy drinking and drug use. The story takes place among a group of completely unsympathetic liberal arts college students, both straight and gay, and focuses on two men and a woman. One of the guys is now in his gay phase after having a non-sexual relationship with the woman. He is now attracted to guy two. The girl really wants her boyfriend, but, since he is off screwing his way through Europe, she has her sights set on guy two, more or less. Guy two begins to think he wants her, but violates the prime directive and screws a slut, who also happens to be her roommate.

This was from Roger Avery, writer of Pulp Fiction, which I enjoyed, but I hated this movie start to finish. Some agree with me, others say it is brilliantly made with cutting edge camera tricks that mostly work. So who is right? Everyone. Since it is skillfully assembled but not very pleasant, the key to this film is whether or not you want to spend 110 minutes with nothing but unlikable characters. I don't.

The Critics Vote

  • General USA consensus: two and a half stars. Ebert 2/4, Berardinelli 3/4, Entertainment Weekly B+.

The People Vote ...

  • IMDB summary. IMDb voters score it a surprisingly high 6.7/10, but voters were less enthusiastic on the other sites.
  • Box Office Mojo. A bomb. It had a half-hearted marketing plan of 1400 screens, and it opened in 12th place. It was only the sixth best opener among films released that week - and none of the other five were hits! It finished with $6 million domestic gross. Production costs were a mere $4 million, but the marketing budget was somewhere around $9 million.
The meaning of the IMDb score: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence equivalent to about three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, comparable to approximately two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, equivalent to about a two star rating from the critics. Films rated below five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film - this score is roughly equivalent to one and a half stars from the critics or even less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. (C+ means it has no crossover appeal, but will be considered excellent by genre fans, while C- indicates that it we found it to be a poor movie although genre addicts find it watchable). D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well.

Any film rated C- or better is recommended for fans of that type of film. Any film rated B- or better is recommended for just about anyone. We don't score films below C- that often, because we like movies and we think that most of them have at least a solid niche audience. Now that you know that, you should have serious reservations about any movie below C-.

Based on this description, this film is a C- (Scoop) or maybe a C (Tuna). Scoop wrote, "It just tries too hard to be cool and funny, and mostly succeeds only in being mean and slimy. Black comedy is difficult to pull off successfully, and this film generally fails. It's an unpleasant experience, although I admired bits and pieces of it."

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