Character actor Michael Shannon has been nominated for his second Oscar for his role in the 2016 thriller Nocturnal Animals. "No Small Parts" takes a look at some of the other characters he's played in the past.
Two business executives--one an avowed misogynist, the other recently emotionally wounded by his love interest--set out to exact revenge on the female gender by seeking out the most innocent, uncorrupted girl they can find and ruining her life.
While visiting an art museum, a nerdy college student named Adam meets an iconoclastic artist named Evelyn and is instantly smitten. As their relationship develops, she gradually encourages Adam to change in various ways that surprise his older friends, Jenny and Philip. However, as events progress, Evelyn's antics become darker and darker as her influence begins to twist Adam and his friends in hurtful ways. Written by
Kenneth Chisholm (firstname.lastname@example.org)
"Moralists have no place in an art gallery." This is the quote that is plastered over the wall of a museum in The Shape of Things, the latest film by Neil LaBute (In the Company of Men, Your Friends and Neighbors), and judging by this latest piece of his, I don't think there's any doubt as to whether or not this is where LaBute belongs. After trying to play it straight (and failing) with last year's Gwyneth Paltrow-Aaron Eckhart romance Possession, LaBute returns to what he does best: twisted expositions of the horrors of humanity. It wouldn't be appropriate to say that his films are entertaining per se (with the exception of Nurse Betty -- but even that had its shocking moments), but they ARE perversely compelling. The Shape of Things is what Pygmalion would look like if it had been directed by John Waters -- or, well, LaBute, for that matter: while the story is essentially the same (although in this case, a woman makes over a bourgeois man), there is no feel-good love story element ... whatsoever. At all. Adam (Paul Rudd) is a corduroy-wearing, tape-around-the-nose-of-his-glasses college student who develops an obsession for a femme fatale art grad named Evelyn (Rachel Weisz). His best friends Jenny (Gretchen Mol) and Phillip (Fred Weller) end up causing friction as Evelyn gradually transforms Adam into a metrosexual robot, and everything collides in a conclusion that -- while possibly predictable -- is wholly unsettling. LaBute is no stranger to abusive characters: In the Company of Men was possibly one of the cruelest films ever made -- even though it did have a message. The difference between that and The Shape of Things, however, is that here there isn't an innocent victim: every other character is just as deceptive and manipulative as Evelyn -- which makes it possibly even MORE disturbing than Company. It would be easy to just accuse LaBute of dwelling on the oppressive, but I, for one, am pleased (if that word could possibly be used in correlation with this film) that he is challenging our world and our way of thinking. At one point in the film Evelyn says, "It is to indifference that I say [hoists both middle fingers] to." It is quite apparent that LaBute has the same mentality -- but take that as a good thing. The Shape of Things is a masterfully made work of art: adapted from LaBute's own stage play, it is a representation (whether condemning or accepting is purely up to you) of the cynicism of our generation. The small ensemble cast is terrific all-around: Rudd recalls the comic mannerisms of Ben Stiller and places them in dramatic context. Weisz essentially reprises the Aaron Eckhart role of in In the Company of Men, and Mol and Weller are both perplexed by-standers. The song during the ending credits is "Tear Off Your Own Head (It's a Doll Revolution)," by Elvis Costello, and it couldn't be more appropriate: you could argue that some of the characters are more ruthless than others in this film, but in the end, they're each responsible for their own downfall. LaBute never tries to moralize -- he leaves that part up to us -- but he does create art (sick and hopeless as it may be), and he deserves all the praise and support he can get for it.
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