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The Shape Of Things
cast: Gretchen Mol, Paul Rudd, Rachel Weisz, and Fred Weller

writer and director: Neil LaBute

97 minutes (15) 2003 widescreen ratio 16:9
Momentum DVD Region 2 rental or retail
Also available to rent or buy on video
[released 28 June]

RATING: 8/10
reviewed by John Percival
Nerdy university student Adam (Paul Rudd) has a chance encounter with pushy art student Evelyn (Rachel Weisz) and his life changes as they start to date. Soon conflict begins as his best friend, the cocky Phil (Fred Weller) does not like how Adam has altered and Phil's fiancée Jenny (Gretchen Mol) likes the changes too much. As jealously and betrayal take hold something totally unexpected happens.
   This film written and directed by Neil LaBute seems the focus the friction between certain groups like men and women, art and academic, plus our desire to mould the world around us to our own design. Adam meets Evelyn during his part-time job working in a museum; he is forced to confront her when she steps over a barrier apparently to take photos of a sculpture. Her true intention is deface the sculpture in the name of art. Evelyn convinces Adam that was she is doing is right on the basis of logic and artistic integrity, and impressed by her conviction he finds the courage to ask her on a date.
   During the course of their relationship Evelyn is extremely affectionate to Adam and she suggests little changes he can make in his appearance, such as losing weight, changing his clothes and getting a nose job. Each time he is rewarded with affection and sex but as he becomes 'better looking' and more confident the nature of his relationship with his friends is changed and temptations appear.
   Although quite colourfully filmed and with the subject matter seeming quite light for the first half, there is a dark and cynical vein flowing right up the bitter end. As this is a film based on a play of the same name then is little action and instead the focus is on the strength of the dialogue and the dynamic between the characters. The Shape Of Things exposes the flaws in our appearance and personalities and how they are either tolerated or moulded by our partners and friends.
   This kind of movie does require a high level of acting by the cast and for the most part they deliver. Rachel Weisz is suitably superior, uncompromising in her opinions of art and not afraid to use her sexuality to make a point. However her American accent is a disaster as her true plumy English voice slips out in nearly every sentence, however this could be a deliberate ambiguity as how much do we really know about her? Paul Rudd bumbles appropriately as the nerdy ugly duckling Adam who is uncomfortable with the transformation into a swan but happy to please Evelyn.
   Phil (Fred Weller) is an annoying jock who makes an unlikely friend to Adam. His engagement to Jenny appears to be based on appearances, he is happy to have an attractive fiancée but she can be replaced and she is happy to forgive his faults to be with him. That is until the transformed Adam stirs up feelings within her. There is much commentary about the importance of art in society against the superficiality of physical attraction. The themes that power the group and form the views of the director are extremely cynical but they make the basis for what is actually a solid story. Even though halfway through the film the ending becomes obvious it is played out is in a cold detached way that is simultaneously about to explode with emotion.
   Weisz does an outstanding job of steering our emotions between contempt and warmth for Evelyn. Along with the rest of the cast we have four honest performances, which superbly carry the story right through to the very gripping finale. All in all The Shape Of Things is a fairly polished intelligent story with some solid performances, it is great to watch and the ending is something you will think about for a long time to come.
   The extras included a revealing commentary by director Neil LaBute and Paul Rudd, The Shape Of Things from Stage to Screen: an introduction by Neil LaBute. And a rather odd little piece called Welcome To Mercy College.

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