October 10, 2002
THE 'RULES' OF ADAPTATION:
SECOND ELLIS NOVEL FINDS WAY TO BIG SCREEN
Avary's adaptation of 'Rules'
both a delight and a letdown
By Luke Smith
Daily Arts Editor
The uneducated, unknowing or unconscious will look
at the straight-from-the-WB cast of "Rules of Attrac-
tion" coupled with the MTV-gen fast cutting in the offi-
cial trailer and desperately claim "Rules" is a dark
response to light-hearted teen trash films, instead of the
black-comedy, adaptation of Bret Easton Ellis' ("Ameri-
can Psycho"), 1987 novel of the same name.
Both the book and film satirize the
American upper-crust of white-bread
bourgeoisie at the small, very private, fic-
titious liberal arts-oriented Camden Col- **
lege. Avary fast-forwarded the film's THE RI
period, contemporizing Ellis' decrepit dis- ATTRA
enfranchised '80s into a debaucherous,
disheartening present. This decline into At Sh<
moral bankruptcy is the intention and Quality
Avary's script holds fairly true to a novel Mad
with a branching, multi-framed non-linear
Sean Bateman (James Van Der Beek,
"Dawson's Creek") is the campus representative/emis-
sary (salesman sounds so pedestrian) of the local drug
kingpins. He deals coke at a 50-percent mark-up, hasn't
been paying his bills and he's also been receiving
anonymous love letters. Lauren (Shannyn Sossamon, "A
Knight's Tale") is virginal, quaint and practical - she
convinces herself not to go out by looking through a
book visually cataloging sexual diseases, and she's in
love with Victor (Kip Pardue, "Remember the Titans")
- who is criss-crossing Europe, clubbing, partying and
sightseeing. Paul (Ian Somerhalder, "Life as a House")
is the bisexual ex-boyfriend of Lauren Hynde who has
fallen hard for Sean. Through rewinding bits and pieces
of film from points where narratives intersect, Avary
allows the principal characters to show different sides of
the same event; a facet adapted surprisingly well from
The plot here is of minimal importance, there is no
central action driving the film along, everything leads
up to the "Dressed to Get Screwed" party - if a film
can lead up to the event shown in the long opening
credits. Sean believes that Lauren is writing him the
notes, and being the sexual predator that he is, begins to
awkwardly pursue her. Somehow Paul manages to fall
for Sean; all while Lauren is waiting for Victor to get
back from Europe. Just like it sounds, the plot of "Rules
of Attraction" is a giant mess.
It is within this mess of plot (conceived by Ellis,
adapted by Avary) where the technological merits of
Avary's direction emerge. The film's best sequence is
unquestionably Victor's European excursion. Shot
entirely with digital cameras, Avary followed Kip Par-
due around Europe, demanding that Pardue be "Vic-
tor" for the trip's duration. Consequently, Avary shot
nearly every waking minute of Pardue's life during the
span, edited it together, had Pardue record a voice over
and he slapped it in the last half of "Rules." Avary's
handheld stumbling through Europe with Pardue is not
a cinematic recreation of a European vacation, it is a
European vacation. The authenticity is palpable during
It is always problematic when adapting an incredible
novel to the screen, (though Ellis' "Rules" barely regis-
tered on the cultural radar in '87) but Avary's adaptation
is an excellent one. However, it is also fitting to point
that an excellent adaptation of an excellent novel does
not necessarily make an excellent movie.
The acting in the film is what is expected. It is sur-
prising for a moment to see Van Der Beek doing some-
thing other than Dawson - especially when that
something involves preying on college freshmen as
opposed to pining over Joey, but the surprise wears off
fast enough. Shannyn Sossamon and Jessica Biel don't
even need to act to play college students. "The Rules of
Attraction" certainly poses few challenges
to its actors. The script doesn't require ter-
rible amounts of emotion out of the charac-
ters; Sossamon gets raped and puked on
LES OF early in the film, but even that is played
easy. In Sossamon/Avary's defense; Ellis
2TION downplayed the rape of the virginal Lauren
in his novel, but the rape is harder to brush
6 and aside onscreen, than Ellis's novel allows,
one and intends.
When reading "Rules," it becomes diffi-
Jate cult to imagine the lives of Sean, Lauren,
Paul and Victor appearing in color; they are
bleak, hopeless and easy to hate or love. Ellis' satire is
simultaneously hilarious, biting, sad and pathetic.
Avary's "Rules" has elements, moments and scenes fea-
turing the aforementioned qualities, but as is often the
case, it is difficult to adapt a literary masterpiece. Avary
could've done nothing to improve "Rules," the film's
head is bumping into a glass ceiling and in some ways,
therein lies the problem.
Courtesy of Lions Gate
Roger Avary on the set of "The Rules of Attraction."
up iction' co-writer Avary
talks about new 'ttraction
By Luke Smith
Daily Arts Editor
: '' rr: : .
Director Roger Avary's "The Rules
of Attraction" almost wasn't made. At
a lull in his career, the writer/director
woke up in the middle of the night
with an idea for adapting his favorite
Bret Easton Ellis novel, "The Rules of
Attraction." He wrote the script franti-
cally and locked it away. It wasn't until
his producer demanded to read and
subsequently loved the draft that
"Rules" became anything more than a
script. Coincidentally, the rights were
available, and "Rules" began its voy-
age from Ellis' mind to Avary's mind
and, this Friday to theaters.
Even with a quality script and the
rights to the film, Avary's "Rules"
encountered problems at the, produc-
tion level. It was during the making of
"The Rules of Attraction," Avary was
competing with the Screen Actor's
Guild strike and all of the movies
being made at the time were shutting
down. "We were literally one of the
last films being made in Los Ange-
les," Avary told The Michigan Daily.
Once the film was in the can, Avary
and his editors went to war against the
censors. "The Rules of Attraction"
was rejected for an R-rating from the
MPAA countless times.
An R-rating needed to be received
in order for "Rules" to make its way
into wide-release - Lion's Gate (the
film's distributor) would take a huge
loss if the film opened with an NC-17
or the equally damning Unrated tag.
Avary posted on his website
(www.avary.com) regarding the rat-
ings fiasco. "I had to trim some
trimmed snatch - I had to modify
some of the dialog." And after all was
said and ddne, early press screenings
were of a slightly unfinished film. The
sound wasn't completely mastered,
announcements were made after the
film that the opening scene with Shan-
nyn Sossamon was being re-worked
and the credits had yet to be added.
With "The Rules of Attraction,"
Avary said he "wanted to make a film
that wasn't falling prey to normal Hol-
lywood lines, while simultaneously
adapting Bret Easton Ellis' novel."
Given Ellis' scorn for the majority of
what he writes about, viewers of
"Rules" shouldn't expect to see the
film tie up too neatly when the credits
roll. "There is no false justice at the
end of his (Ellis) books," Avary said. "I
didn't want there to be some sort of
false justice or false happy ending at
the end of this film."
Instead of false justice and happy
endings, "Rules" viewers will be
treated to a cheerless glimpse into
the ''condemnation of the luxurious
debauchery of the ruling class," said
Avary. The nihilistic college students
of Camden (a fictitious college
somewhere in New England, but it
could be Anywhere, USA) sleep
around, do ridiculous amounts of
cocaine, oozing more apathy than the
pounds of cocaine snorted, sold or
traded during the film. Avary's own
"Animal House" for the heartless is a
complicated mixture of characters
whose basic desires are far more
primitive and depraved than the
- Katie Marie Gates contributed to
Courtesy of Lion's Gate
The controversial preview poster from the film.
Living in the present, Tamango
incorporates work into his life
By Lynn Hasselbarth
For the Daily
Tomorrow, Tamango, an artist, dancer and cultivator of the
unexpected, will bring his group of wildly creative dancers
and musicians to the Power Center for three
performances of live dance theater. His group,
founded in 1993 as Urban Tap, is an innovative
ensemble combining freestyle tap-jazz and TAMAN
street-smart hip-hop, expressing the life of URBA
New York City, where the company resides.A
Tamango was born in Cayenne, French At the Po
Guiana, and later discovered dance in Paris, Tomorn
adding a global flair that defies all cultural Saturday
boundaries. Audiences will see African stilt Sundaa
dancing as well as Brazilian capoeira, a fasci- U
nating dance style derived from martial arts.
Audience members can expect to hear live
musical accompaniment that is also a fusion of cultures.
Tamango brings in Haitian drummers and the sounds of
Africa and Cuba as accompaniment for his dancing. There
will also be the Australian didgerdoo, a large bamboo or
wooden trumpet, and the more familiar sounds of the cello.
Human "beat-boxing" complements break dancing, jazz and
bebop. Thus, the trademark of Tamango and Urban Tap lies
in its eclectic combination of dance and music. This perform-
ance is the ultimate jam session.
"Full Cycle" is the title of Tamango's newest work. This
creation can best be described as dance-theater, a melting pot
of art forms and cultural influences. In addition to the ener-
gizing blend of sounds and movements, audiences will expe-
rience high-tech visual effects. Picture a live music video set
to movements improvised on stage. "It's like a DJ scratching
on the big screen," says Tamango.
The beauty of the group's creations is in a
style that is wholly improvisational. All per-
formances are new and unpredictable, "97 per-
YO AND cent improvisational," Tamango notes. It is a
TAP wonder that a group so diverse can collaborate
when so much is left up to chance. When asked
er Center how the performers prepare for a show, Taman-
w and go coolly replied, "We just gather and talk -
t 8p m. get our energy fields together."
234 "The core of art is to live in the present,"
IS Tamango believes, a philosophy that he incor-
porates into his life and work. Nothing about
this man or his friends in Urban Tap is premedi-
tated or planned. This laid-back way of life is what makes
Tamango's art so appealing. He does not seek to please others,
but invites them to join in a whirlwind of spontaneity on stage.
In addition to his work with Urban Tap, Tamango has col-
laborated with such celebrated dance legends as Gregory
Hines, Buster Brown, Jimmy Slyde and Chuck Green. He
was also a guest artist in the original production of "River-
dance." However, despite the global success of Urban Tap,
Tamango maintains a humble appreciation for life and his art.
"Everything is subject to change," he says, "I'm concerned
with life today."
SCHOOL OF INFORMATION
Connect with SI
An Event for Prosoective Students,
Enhance your skills to meet
the challenges of the Information
Age by earning the Master of
Science in Information. Tailor
your own program or spe-
cialize in Archives and Records
Interaction; Information Econom-
ics, Management and Policy; or
Library and Information Services.
f e ."A'Ia y n a rd tfi- -
7am - 12am
.... .. ...... .