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The Shape of Things   B+

Focus Features

Year Released: 2003
MPAA Rating: R
Director: Neil LaBute
Writer: Neil LaBute
Cast: Paul Rudd, Rachel Weisz, Gretchen Mol, Fred Weller.

Review by Sean O'Connell

Boy meets girl. They fall in love. It sounds like a storybook beginning, not a Neil LaBute relationship study. After all, the talented but cynical filmmaker has a penchant for pathos and a torturous streak running through his body of work.

Bookworm Adam (Paul Rudd) is spun into a social butterfly by freethinking art student Evelyn (Rachel Weisz) after their chance meeting. Soon Evelyn convinces Adam to lose weight and change his hairstyle, which helps him to gain immeasurable levels of self-confidence. So why are his friends (Gretchen Mol, Frederick Weller) so skeptical?

LaBute adapted The Shape of Things from his play, which starred these same actors in these same roles. Delivered in a "you talk, then I talk" pattern, his stagy but delectable dialogue drips with effective urgency. Only Weller, a horrible actor, fails to meet the material's challenge. His obnoxious approach nearly derails this otherwise well-acted piece.

The Shape of Things inevitably factors in a cruel twist that devastates but makes a point. Love is art that hurts as it challenges. LaBute may overplay some situations, but he's digging up pointed questions about complicated relationships. Plus, the rocking Elvis Costello soundtrack is the first of 2003 that I'd actually purchase.

So, boy meets girl. They fall in love. Girl separates boy from his closest friends, then rips his heart out. Boy picks up the pieces of his shattered existence. Now that's the LaBute we know and love.

Review published 05.28.2003.

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