Meredith H. (merbreezer) from WASHINGTON, DC Reviewed on 2/2/2010...
Simply put I hated the movie.
1 of 2 member(s) found this review helpful.
The shape of things to come...
Mark Twain | 06/02/2003
(4 out of 5 stars)
"The Shape of Things is a four-person play translated to the big screen. Despite long, stretched out scenes and theatrical dialogue, it all works very well thanks to the energetic performances of the entire first-rate cast.The movie--based on LaBute's play of the same name and starring the same four actors from the play--is a uniquely contemporary story of love, sex, and art set in a college town, which follows the steadily intensifying relationship between Evelyn (the wonderful Rachel Weisz) and Adam (the charming Paul Rudd). As Evelyn strengthens her hold on Adam, his emotional and physical evolution discomforts his friends Jenny (Gretchen Mol back in top form) and Philip (well-acted by Frederick Weller), with unexpected consequences for all. The quartet of college-age characters deal with the conflicting human desires for autonomy and connection, truth and love, and the notion that seduction is an art, making for a clever and mean-spirited satire on life and friendship. The material is a sort of throwback to LaBute's first two movies, "In the Company of Men" and "Your Friends & Neighbors," after the bigger-budgeted, broader-canvassed "Nurse Betty" (in which he directed someone else's screenplay) and "Possession" (in which he adapted A.S. Byatt's novel). Like the first pair of films, LaBute once again homes in on an intimate group of men and women and the razor-edged sexual politics among them.Some of the behavior in "The Shape of Things" is every bit as nasty as in the other films, once again reaching the point of getting a tad bit 'uncomfortable.'Adam and Evelyn - the symbolic names are no accident - meet while he's working as a school museum guard and she literally crosses the line to spray-paint a sculpture that has had its genitalia covered. "You're cute. I don't like your hair," she tells him, and a romance is begun. Soon she's suggesting wardrobe and styling fixes and taking him to graphic performance-art happenings. She's of the art-equals-provocation-equals-truth school and butts heads with Philip, who's more of a regular-guy philistine.LaBute doesn't pretend that his source material is anything other than a play. He keeps the action divided into 10 discrete scenes, with snippets of Elvis Costello's poisoned-romance songs (the musical equivalent of velvet-sheathed knives) serving as the links between them.You must accept a certain theatricality to the material, as much of the action occurs off screen, and what's there hasn't been "opened up" so that conversations take place over multiple locations. The performances are scaled down from what they must have been in the theater, but LaBute's dialogue has its own particular rhythms that aren't entirely "realistic." And that's fine. The writing is smart, so you stick with the story on its own terms.The movie ultimately lies on Weisz's shoulders, though, as she has to convince you that Adam would give in to Evelyn's manipulations, her obvious beauty notwithstanding. And she does, her performance balancing seduction and the sense that she's one eye twinkle away from being a whack job. Evelyn is the character who would be most at home in the take-no-prisoners world of LaBute's earlier works, yet you suspect the director's sympathies might lie closest with her, or at least her inclination to shake things up.Any meaningful dissection of "The Shape of Things" must revolve around the ending, yet revealing it would be a crime against art. Suffice it to say that LaBute is interested in the way that surfaces affect our perceptions of content, and how those perceptions can, in turn, become our reality. It's harsh and mean but LaBute never loses sight of what shape he wishes this crafty story to take. In the end, his aim is true."
Great movie with Rachel Weisz giving a great performance.
Kimmy Grear | Longmeadow,MA | 11/05/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Neil LaBute's is back in fine form with a story that even rivals his previous classic In the Company of Man. Rachel Weisz is superb as a strange and crazy art student who wants to remake Paul Rudd
Into the image of the perfect man. With all of Neil LaBute's plays, expect the unexpected. Rachel is stunning as Evelyn, and her performance makes this film as special as it is. Paul Rudd is great as well as Adam, plus Gretchen Mol and Fred Weller are great as Jenny and Phillip. Neil LaBute not only out does himself this time, but with Rachel Weisz's help makes a modern classic."
Mark Twain | 05/18/2003
(3 out of 5 stars)
"Neil LaBute's "The Shape of Things" (2003) is a film about superficiality. Unfortunately, the film also bears a kind of shallow, hollow, and superficial quality.The film's thesis is as follows: We are trained to measure and form our bodies against certain socially constructured images. When we drape ourselves in socially acceptable veils and disguises, or fashion our bodies in a way that is considered socially appealing, we also fill out the roles that are assigned to these forms. In other words, if you wear Abercrombie and Fitch clothing, you will become an Abercrombie and Fitch "type."The characters, Evelyn (Rachel Weiss), Adam (Paul Rudd), Jenny (Gretchen Moll), and Phillip (Frederick Weller), are really nothing more than allegorical figures. Evelyn is The Artist (the name resonates with "Eve"). Adam is The Ethicist. Jenny is The Duped Consumer. Phillip is The Philistine (note the partial homonymy). Unfortunately, the characters never lose their status as abstractions; they retain their absolute, stiff, abstract quality throughout the film's running time. They resemble concepts more than they do human beings. Like theorems, they never step outside of their predetermined calculations. Evelyn, in particular, never relaxes or complicates her role as a revolutionary artist (she even wears Che and Mao buttons on her jackets). These "characterologies" are, at best, simple, and, at worst, simplistic. When Evelyn confesses to having a "human feeling" in the film's last bit of dialogue (what a downfall to end the film in this way!), it seems merely patronizing on her part, or, even worse, a plot convenience invented by LaBute to make her seem believable!No matter how you consider them, the plot moves are excessively contrived. I challenge anyone to dispute this point.The film's dialogue (heavily indebted to David Mamet, who is equally indebted to Harold Pinter) is excessively stylized. Now, I do not have a problem with cosmetized dialogue. In fact, I prefer it. When dialogue becomes OVERLY artificial, however, it distracts from the narrative. There is little room for interpretation when a character has the initials "EAT" inscribed on his thigh and the significance of this is spelled out for the benefit of the audience in the most condescending manner imaginable. Everything in "The Shape of Things" is overly emphatic and over-done.The whole film has the air of condescension toward its audience. Now, I don't have a problem with low expectations when it comes to one's audience; what I do have a problem with is the way in which the film EXPLAINS ITSELF in a pedantic way at every turn.The allusions in the film are, I'm afraid, quite blatant and obvious: for instance, the apple emblazoned on the T-shirt that Evelyn wears so fetchingly in the opening vignette; the references to "The Picture of Dorian Grey," Kafka's "The Metamorphosis," "Medea," etc. aren't particularly erudite or clever.Given that the film tries so desperately to be perplexing, provocative, and shocking, it would be almost impolite not to be at least a little disturbed. I must confess, however, that I found the film's "surprise twist ending" (to use the catch-phrase employed by many of the film's commentators) to be less than "shocking." It simply wasn't as surprising as I had hoped (I almost anticipated a second "surprise twist ending" that never arrived). The reason, I suspect, for this let-down is that the climax is utterly predictable. Please do not misunderstand me: the climactic scene in the audiorium IS a brilliant conceit. And yet I saw it coming fifteen miles away! The film's intention to horrify its audience is transparent. Despite this, the climax left me unmoved, perhaps because it was clear from the very first vignette where the film was heading.The film's course tends to move "full circle." When we first encounter Adam, he is dressed like a stereotypical "nerd." At the end of the film, he is dressed like an equally ridiculous and stereotypical frat boy. The obvious and overly emphatic character of Adam's presentation is, again, one of the film's most annoying flaws---however, if this is played for laughs, it works splendidly.But this "full circularity" also raises certain problems: in the opening scene of the film, an art exhibit is vandalized. Why doesn't the film end with the Frankenstein monster destroying what was created?The final scene is a conversation between two absolutes, neither of which changes its qualities in the slightest: the artist who refuses to concede to the ethical; the ethicist who believes that art has moral limits. Neither of the parties "win" the argument, per se (although the moment when Adam insults Evelyn to her face is priceless). LaBute seems to be suggesting that the art vs. morality debate will never come to a conclusion.Neil LaBute seems more comfortable directing a stage than he does directing a camera. I say this because the scenes in this film bear a static, lifeless, "stagey" quality---they are "theatrical" in the bad sense. Similarly, the ending is as pedantic as anything you're likely to hear in a professorial lecture hall. It is, frankly, pedantic and didactic---in the bad senses of both of these words.I have no problem with films the sole intentions of which are to shock or horrify ("In the Company of Men" and "The Shape of Things" are, strictly speaking, "horror movies"). But "The Shape of Things" isn't particularly shocking or horrifying.Toward the end of the film, Evelyn stares at the camera and aggressively gives the audience an "indecent gesture" (two, in fact). This gesture is meant for those who are "indifferent" to her aesthetic agit-prop, and it isn't difficult to sense that this gesture is also the filmmaker's. Because the film left me relatively cold, I must confess that I felt that gesture was meant for me."
Lord henry wotton as a 21st century bohemian art student?
Portia | United States | 07/19/2003
(3 out of 5 stars)
""The Shape of Things" is a beautifully acted, 4 person cinema-play that is too intimate to be a film and too in-your-face to be very illuminating or fresh.Adam, a happy, morally-together all-around good guy dork is befriended and ultimately seduced by Evelyn, a gorgeous, slightly-radical thrift-store-shopping art student who walks the fine edge between eccentric and sociopathic.The Picture of Dorian Grey is a template that LaBute used unabashedly, Evelyn simultaneously taking the roles of Henry Wotton, The Tempter and Corrupter-- and Basil Hallward, The Sensitive Artist Using Life As A Canvas. Adam is quite obviously pre-and-post Dorian Grey, at first youthful innocence, and later a cold, past-salvation work of "Art" with a capital "A". She never cared for Adam, she only saw him as a tool with which to create her Important Statement about how we View Others to the Unenlightened Masses.Evelyn uses Adam as a canvas to create her masterpiece (Aka her graduate thesis project). In retrospect, it's a madman's bet with his own alter-ego: I bet that I can use all my feminine wiles to take this nice, unique, moral guy and turn him into a mainstream, corrupt toy of my own creation.Of course, the point is duly made and shoved into audiences faces like one of the experimental performance-art pieces that Evelyn takes Adam to. Adam morphs into a sort of post-modernist Dorian Grey, except it's his face which bears Evelyn's brushstrokes (right down to a nose job), instead of some canvas safely hidden in an old schoolroom.The 4 (and only 4) actors portray their roles admirably. Especially Rachel Weisz, who is the central force of the entire film and makes you feel uncomfortable, angry, respectful and admiring simultaneously while making her point well enough to make you understand her position, even if you disagree.Unfortunately, the film suffers from its own pretensions as much as anyone else's, and you start feeling towards the end that the movie itself is playing a trick on you just as Evelyn is-- it has no affection for its audience, and it doesn't really care if it breaks your heart or crushes any ideals. It only cares about being right and being shocking. I'm all for being right, even if it shocks people. But twisting reality to appear truthful just for the pleasure of pushing the limits of Beauty, Art and Truth is never enjoyable. The real bohemians would have disapproved. Oscar Wilde would have been amused."
Great Film powered by a powerful performance by Rachel Weisz
Mark Twain | 09/23/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"A top-notch movie that not only puts the fear in you about the relationship you are in but makes you question your motives in the process. Every thing in this film puts in question the power struggles we face in the relationships we are in and makes us face ourselves as human beings. Neil LaBute not only creates a movie that so exposes the nerves and muscles of relationships, but exposes the hypocrisy of the society they dwell in as well. Rachel Weisz not only floors you with her powerful performance as Evelyn but also makes you question your own morality in the process by her character view of the world. No one is innocent in this movie, and even though Evelyn may seem immoral, she might also be the most moral character of the entire film because she at least does not hide her views of the world. Which makes her sort of a beacon of truth, even though her views are as disturbing as they are immoral. I dare anyone to not come out of this film a different person that the one who started to watch it. It will not only blow you away but floor you as well with it's ending. Thank you Neil Labute and Rachel Weisz for such breathtaking and powerful movie."