The Shape Of Things

"Weak"

The Shape Of Things Review


It's impossible to discuss some of the hiccups in the concept of Neil LaBute's "The Shape of Things" -- a thorny, thought-provoking contemplation of the lengths people will go for love, or what they think is love -- without giving away the startling twist the film takes in its last act.

But it can be said that in adapting his own 2001 play, the writer-director didn't augment the characters and settings with the additional depth and definition necessary to flesh out a stage production for the screen.

As a film, "The Shape of Things" is set in the real world -- on a college campus where frumpy, unassertive, full-time English major and part-time museum guard Adam (Paul Rudd) comes under the lifestyle-altering influence of a sexy, puckish, wily, funky art student named Evelyn (Rachel Weisz), whose interest and affection Adam desperately clings to because he hardly believes in it himself.

This cinematic real world requires a greater authenticity than a stage production (where everything beyond the characters themselves is an abstract), but "The Shape of Things" provides none. No one ever goes to class. No one mentions homework, papers, tests or tuition. There's no sense of the characters' lives outside their service to the story.

As not-quite-sincere Evelyn embraces awestruck Adam then tightens her grip, he goes through a slow transformation that seems positive at first -- losing weight and bad habits while gaining self-confidence, a better haircut and a new wardrobe. But his changes grow increasingly dubious (she talks him into getting a nose job) as the months go by without the two lovers really becoming any closer. This raises red flags for Adam's two best friends, abrasive know-it-all Philip (Frederick Weller) and Philip's cute, compassionate, somewhat irresolute fiancée Jenny (Gretchen Mol) -- an unrequited love from Adam's past who begins to find the reformed nerd more desirable.

Soon Evelyn wants Adam to cut these friends out of his life -- a final, willing and major alteration that leads to a bewildering betrayal, which in turn invites an profound exploration of the concepts of integrity, friendship, love, being true to one's self, and even art.

Psychologically and emotionally compelling, "The Shape of Things" is weakened by the characters' seeming lack of existance beyond these few relationships -- and even those seem under-ripe at times. Hasn't Adam ever asked Evelyn about the big art project she's is working on? Hasn't he wondered if she has friends and why he's never met them?

There's a tangible awkwardness of unresolved feelings between Adam and Jenny, but when they're alone together they seem more like two people who've just met than like friends who have never gotten comfortable around each other.

Sometimes the performances feel both under-rehearsed -- which is strange since Rudd, Weisz, Mol and Weller are all original cast members from the play -- and overly staged (part of the unwieldy transition to film). When Jenny and Adam walk and talk in a park, they pause with conspicuous premeditation at a picnic table, a swing set and an ocean cliff side as if these spots were marks at stage left, stage center and stage right.

Provocative to be sure, "The Shape of Things" makes an interesting contrast to LaBute's controversial portrait of misogyny, "In the Company of Men." But it simply feels shackled to its previous incarnation. It doesn't breath like a movie or have the elasticity of a movie. It's confined and restricted by its narrow focus on just the interactions of this foursome without them interacting with anything or anyone else.

The picture lacks the cinematic sophistication LaBute has demonstrated in the past (most recently in the narratively complex "Possession"), and as a result the credibility of the characters, their lives and the world they inhabit suffers to the point of distraction.



The Shape Of Things

Facts and Figures

Run time: 96 mins

In Theaters: Friday 28th November 2003

Box Office USA: $0.7M

Distributed by: Focus Features

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 2 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 64%
Fresh: 86 Rotten: 48

IMDB: 6.8 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director:

Starring: as Adam, as Jenny, as Evelyn Ann Thompson, as Phillip

Contactmusic


Links



Advertisement

New Movies

Alice Through the Looking Glass Movie Review

Alice Through the Looking Glass Movie Review

This much more light-hearted sequel reinvigorates the franchise after Disney's quirky but murky 2010 reboot...

Love & Friendship Movie Review

Love & Friendship Movie Review

Acclaimed filmmaker Whit Stillman reunites the stars of his 1998 drama The Last Days of...

Money Monster Movie Review

Money Monster Movie Review

A sleekly made thriller with a sparky sense of humour, this is also a rare...

X-Men: Apocalypse Movie Review

X-Men: Apocalypse Movie Review

This closing chapter of the First Class trilogy falls into the same trap as The...

Sing Street Movie Review

Sing Street Movie Review

A buoyant celebration of the power of music, this is the third blissfully entertaining musical...

Departure Movie Review

Departure Movie Review

Complex, dark and very moving, this British drama never makes things easy for the audience,...

Everybody Wants Some!! Movie Review

Everybody Wants Some!! Movie Review

Richard Linklater loosely follows on from two of his most acclaimed films with this lively...

Advertisement
Our Kind of Traitor Movie Review

Our Kind of Traitor Movie Review

John le Carre's novel is adapted with plenty of inventive style into a remarkably personal...

The Angry Birds Movie Movie Review

The Angry Birds Movie Movie Review

There's nothing particularly memorable about this frantic animated romp, which adapts the iconic phone-app game...

Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising [Bad Neighbours 2] Movie Review

Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising [Bad Neighbours 2] Movie Review

While it's amusing and sometimes very funny, there's an air of desperation about this sequel...

Florence Foster Jenkins Movie Review

Florence Foster Jenkins Movie Review

Although this comedy-drama seems to have been written specifically to give Meryl Streep a chance...

I Saw the Light Movie Review

I Saw the Light Movie Review

Writer-director Marc Abraham gets ambitious with this biopic about iconic country music star Hank Williams,...

Captain America: Civil War Movie Review

Captain America: Civil War Movie Review

After the formulaic thrills of The Winter Soldier and Age of Ultron, Marvel's Avengers were...

Son of Saul Movie Review

Son of Saul Movie Review

From Hungary, this year's Oscar-winning foreign film is a remarkably fresh take on the Holocaust...

Advertisement
Artists
Actors
    Filmmakers
      Artists
      Bands
        Musicians
          Artists
          Celebrities
             
              Artists
              Interviews
                musicians & bands in the news
                  actors & filmmakers in the news
                    celebrities in the news

                      Go Back in Time using our News archive to see what happened on a particular day in the past.