4.5 out of 5 stars
Note: spoilers abound
This post is for the current LAMB Movie of the Month: The Shape of Things. I’m not always crazy about the writer/director of this film, Neil Labute’s, work but I’m big fan of this flick. While the story is, of course integral to that, it’s actually the amazing acting by Rachel Weisz and Paul Rudd that initially drew me to (and continues to draw me back to) this disturbing film.
“You could be a sadist for all I know” “Stop sweet talking me.”
Aside from Rudd and Weisz there are really only 2 other main characters, a yuppie couple played by Frederick Weller and Gretchen Moll. Weller looks like he’d fit right into a Whit Stillman movie, making the viewer (or at least this viewer) instantly hate him. Moll is interminably boring in this flick. Pre The Notorious Bettie Page I never saw a spark in her. Afterward she not only captured Bettie’s spirit but later tackled comedies, leading me to become a fan. However at this time, she was supposed to be the next big thing despite being as exciting as plain toast.
Neil LaBute originally wrote the The Shape of Things as a play. The cast who later went on to star in the flick originated the roles in the play two years prior to the filming of it. Probably my only real beef with the film is that the cast play college characters and only Moll was actually around college age during filming. However though the film is set at a college that isn’t really the point so it’s not that big of a deal.
“See I’m totally different, I think everyone should see themselves doing it and their friends should see it too.”
The film centers on Adam (Paul Rudd). He’s a shy student and museum guard. It’s always assumed that a shy character should be drawn out so initially someone would probably think that when an anarchist artist named Evelyn (Weisz) starts flirting with him that this would only lead to good things. I can’t even explain how much more attractive this type of woman is to the faux manic pixies of our current pop culture landscape.
In reality Evelyn is continuously altering Adam, mostly by using sex and flattery as tools of manipulation. Some of the things that she gets him to change about himself are his weight, fashion sense and haircut.
“What? Did she give you a haircut and a blowjob and now you’re her puppy?”-Phillip
His friends, in particular Phillip (Weller), call him out on this fairly quickly. However Phillip is a dick. Phillip is engaged to Jenny (Gretchen Moll). The fact is that Phillip is the type of guy who nabbed Jenny because he knew that Adam was interested in her. It’s basically impossible to see what Jenny sees in Phillip aside from his dominance (she often seems to disappear into the background in his presence).
While Jenny does compliment and end up hitting on Rudd (“You’re like this totally hot guy now”), in part due to his makeover and most likely also due to both of them being taken, she actually goes into the subject more thoroughly with Weisz. Weisz seems to want to change the subject when Jenny questions her. However what is truly scary about the film is that what Jenny says is true, people often are in actual relationships with other people and they think that person should just change for them. I’m the complete opposite type of person so I’ve never really understood that. To paraphrase Jenny, “Cosmo says if you change one thing you could have the perfect man. Well Phillip has about six of those one things”.
The cruelest part of Weisz’s makeover is cutting him off from his friends after both of them have indiscretions with the other couple.
“…from the scorned girl’s handbook.”
The big reveal is that Weisz has being using Rudd as her experiment or “human sculpture” for her thesis project. She is a huge fan of performance art and takes great pride in her unveiling.
It’s definitely Weisz that steals this movie. She is so strong and interesting to watch. When you rewatch the film it’s definitely easier to see her character a bit more. While she may smile, flirt and act interested in Adam, the only times that she truly seems emotional is when she is either espousing or arguing about art. Art is her life.
The Shape of Things is definitely a must watch, but it’s not an easy watch and not for everyone.
You can watch The Shape of Things on Netflix Streaming.
You may also enjoy:
Movie Review: Total Recall (1990)-for LAMB Acting School 101: Arnold Schwarzenegger
Movie Review: The Ice Storm-LAMB Director’s Chair #26: Ang Lee
Movie Review: ZPG Zero Population Growth-retrfuturism at its best
Sonny Movie Review aka Whores In Love-starring James Franco