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Terrifying but so true tale about the way people can control us and the
reasons we just let them do it. Rachel Weisz is amazing as art student
who makes changes to a lonely guy who just wants to fit in. The story
in true Neil Labute fashion takes a macabre turn and makes you question
everything that you have done in your relationship and gives you a well
deserved punch in the stomach in the reality department as well. The
acting is beyond top of its game with Rachel Weisz proving once again
to be one of the most talented and gifted actresses of our generation.
Her performance is beyond brilliant and she single handily carries this
movie on her shoulders with her performance. Paul Rudd, Fred Weller and
Gretchen Mole do great work as well and Neil Labute proves once again
to be a profound playwright of uncanny wisdom of the evil that resides
in the human heart.
I do hope that Weisz and Labute work together again.
Rachel Weisz seems to be everywhere. From a Soviet partisan in besieged
Stalingrad in "Enemy at the Gates" to a self-assured single mom in "About a
Boy" and most recently as a grifter in "Confidence," she inhabits her roles
with deft assurance.
Here, in Neil La Bute's play-brought-to-the-screen, "The Shape of Things," Weisz is a disturbing, thought-provoking challenging character: an artist in pursuit of a master's degree but in reality a tester of uncharted waters as she combines the creation of art with her relationship with a man who, like a canvas, is transformed from without. In this case by her.
Paul Rudd is Adam, an art gallery guard who Evelyn, the art student, first encounters in a quirky exchange that suggests an unfolding comedy. There are humorous moments but a darker side slowly emerges as Evelyn carefully encourages Adam to shed his dorky exterior. There's nothing new, of course, with the theme, "Change if you love me," but here Adam's relationship with his close friends, Phillip (Fred Weller) and Jenny (very well acted by Gretchen Moll) takes some disturbing turns. Is Evelyn a catalyst or an agitator? Is her commitment to art part of her persona or its sum total? These questions are increasingly explored in this short film. Does the name "Adam" have some esoteric meaning here?
Some plays don't travel well to the screen. This one does. La Bute's play seems to have been little altered by him for a screenplay.
What is the place of ideas and intellectual experimentation in the creation and fostering of an intimate relationship? Are there boundaries that must be respected even if truth is sacrificed in the process? Does art illuminate or camouflage the reality of a relationship? No ready answers and no final ones here but the effort yields a thought-provoking study.
Rachel Weisz's emerging and brooding intensity is the anchor for this unusual film. She also produced the movie.
The score is by Elvis Costello. His fans will appreciate the soundtrack.
"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.
Heart wrenching and captivating look and relationships that is Neil Labute best film since his horrifying " In the Company of Men" Rachel Weisz literally hold the movie and the viewer in the palm of her hand with a supercharge performance that will be talked about for years and Paul Rudd does good as well as her object of desire. The movie starts off being one thing and ends up being something completely and terrifyingly different once it was over. This is one viewer who is still blown away by the climax and will probably always remember the lesson that was learned by watching this film. Special Thanks to Neil Labute and Rachel Weisz for making one of the most compelling movies ever made.
Adam Sorenson (Paul Rudd) is a simple, insecure and shy student that
works half period as a security guard of a museum and in a rental. He
meets the anarchist and transgressor student of Arts Evelyn Ann
Thompson (Rachel Weizs) trying to paint a penis in an important statue,
and after arguing with her, in the end they schedule a dinner. Evelyn
becomes his girlfriend and he introduces his best friends, Jenny
(Gretchen Mol) and Phillip (Frederick Weller), to her. As long as they
stay together, Adam's behavior changes and his appearance and
confidence improve influenced by Evelyn. He has an affair with Jenny,
betraying and lying to Evelyn and to Phillip, and destroying their
friendship. When Evelyn presents her thesis for the Master degree, Adam
is surprised with revelations.
When I saw the cruel "In the Company of Men" in 1997 or 1998, I became a great fan of Neil LaBute. However, his next good movies have never been in the same level of his debut. In "The Shape of Things", Neil LaBute is in shape again and presents a magnificent cruel and heartless tale of seduction and manipulation. I felt the same surprise as Adam with the plot point of the story, which is a great study of human behavior, with excellent performances of Rachel Weisz and Paul Rudd. My vote is nine.
Title (Brazil): "Arte, Amor e Ilusão" ("Art, Love and Illusion")
After the first 30 minutes I felt like the film lacked energy. The pace
was a little too slow for my taste, and the intensity too low. I wanted
it to be snappier, more sizzling.
But then, about halfway through, it got really interesting. The second half, although it still suffers from some pacing problems, makes up for the first. And then the third act is one of the most brilliant and satisfying third acts I saw in a long time. The ending brings together all of the elements and themes that were planted throughout the movie (our obsession with the way things look, the line between art and real life) to form insights about our lives that are as brutal as they are true.
I am generally fond of Neil LaBute's work - most of the time his works contain more than what they initially seem to be (I haven't see "The Wicker Man" remake yet, but I heard it was horrible). Here, what starts off as your run-of-the-mill romantic comedy/drama, develops into a cynic's paradise, presenting insights into our lives which are as brutal as they are true.
Three of the four actors do a splendid job (Weisz, Rudd & Mol). I especially liked Paul Rudd's performance, and the way his character changes throughout. All three, and especially Rachel Weisz, are convincing in their roles, and deliver multi-layered performances with lots of subtext. Fred Weller's performance leaves something to be desired, but the fact that his role is well written somewhat makes up for that. LaBute has successfully made all four characters three-dimensional and they feel like real people.
Overall, I'd say it was a pretty great movie, certainly entertaining, and an important one to watch and analyze if you are into writing, directing or acting. Somewher, though, I feel like it didn't live up to its full potential. This script, if directed with more intensity, could have become one of my favorite movies, up there with films such as "Closer", "Glengary Glen Ross" or "Oleanna". Maybe it's the transition from the stage to the screen that made LaBute feel like he should make everything more minimalistic and restrained. But it's definitely worth checking out.
This film was absolutely not what I expected it to be. In the first half an hour, I even got a little bored, because it seemed like the story was going nowhere. Fortunately, I got my happy ending - no, not at all a film with a happy ending, just an ending that makes the film precious! It really makes you stare at the black screen, with the cast moving in front, and think about what you've seen over and over again. Of course, the brilliant play of Rachel Weisz cannot be left unmentioned, but I think that the others did a great job as well. "The Shape of things" is a film with actually just four actors and one great idea, and trust me, it is worth seeing. I am just wondering how would I feel the second time I watch it!
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The premise set in large type on the gallery wall of Evelyn's art school installation,"moralists have no place in an art gallery," seems such a blatant contradiction to her stated intentions (and by extension to Neil LaBute's) that it is hard not to suspect that there is some irony (or self-delusion) intended by its conspicuous signing as the backdrop for LaBute's compelling and open-ended denouement. (The quote is attributed to Han Suyin, pen name of the Chinese-born Elizabeth Comber, whose fascinating career, for those interested, is summarized on Wikipedia at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Han_Suyin). LaBute's thinly veiled allusion to the Fall played out by Adam and Evelyn, noted by many commentators, is perhaps the most fundamental and complex of morality tales, with Adam and Eve each owning their proper share of responsibility for the outcome. (The premonition of Original Sin is played out in the opening scene, when Evelyn, in her hubristic pursuit of "truth" prepares to spray paint a penis on the monumental, fig-leafed Hercules in the art gallery, to which Adam, by walking away, symptomatically acquiesces). It is difficult, as such, to find in this morality play a clear expression of LaBute's misogyny or misandry. Adam and Evelyn are fundamentally co-conspirators, perhaps true to their fallible, gender-determined natures, who in LaBute's canny postmodern twist on Original Sin, are left to contemplate the harsh realities of their hard-won knowledge. If the ostensible purpose of Evelyn's sophomoric MFA project is to rail against "indifference," surely in the metamorphosis of Adam, who hurls the painful, "potty-mouthed" expletive at Evelyn in the final scene ("F**k you, you heartless c**t"), we find that a greater knowledge has been won, as much about his own weakness as about the putative nature of women. Evelyn, for her part, played with complex ambiguity by Rachel Weisz in this final scene, exits conspicuously diminished by her "triumph." She no longer displays the confidence, and barely a shadow of the former diffidence that is her signature throughout the play. She has sacrificed all for her "art," which is laid bare as a dubious conceit regarding art's moral purposes. If her purpose was to expose Adam's lack of a center, she no less exposed her own. The gallery is empty -- none of the large audience that attended her performance (save Adam) is inspired to explore the installation, and she stands pathetically alone and forsaken, it seems, vulnerably clutching herself in the gallery (the body language seems to acknowledge representations of Eve handed down by Masaccio, Michelangelo, and Rodin). Paradoxically, she asks Adam as she makes her exit: "Are you coming?" The presumption is that in spite of the travesty she has vested upon Adam, they are inexorably linked to each other, each the fulfillment in their way of each other's worst nature. Adam demurs, of course (there is much to be said for knowledge, in spite of its costs). In this morality play, LaBute leaves it to us to sort out the consequences of fallible human behavior, and whether or not we find either of the principal players redeemable, he nevertheless leaves no doubt regarding our need to acknowledge the moral deficiencies of our archetypal ancestors. He is fundamentally a moralist in this regard, deeply rooted in the vague hope that art (in this case his, not Evelyn's) may transform us. In the last analysis, this is a humanistic impulse that transcends the superficial misanthropy suggested by the weaknesses of his all-too human characters.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
When he was much younger, Woody Allen said that he would most likely have
been a sniper on top of a building if he hadn't had his writing career.
After seeing 3 of his self-penned movies now, I have come to the conclusion
that the same fate might have awaited Neil LaBute if he hadn't gotten his
writing 'thingie' off the ground.
The Company of Men was vile, Your Friends and Neighbors was more subversive about it but vile just the same (even though I actually really liked that one), and now we have The Shape of Things, a 4-character indulgence which involves a personal betrayal of the vilest nature. Vile can be valid, don't get me wrong, but in LaBute's hands it seems to be more of a way for him to exorcise his own demons rather than attempt to consistently present us with believable situations and thoughtfully well-written characters. Of course he SHOULD exorcise those demons (the Woody Allen statement comes to mind again), but it would be much better if he could start doing it in a more constructive, less selfish way.
This movie itself is very much like the character LaBute creates in the film (which was a play originally and feels like it, also not good)- the character played by Rachel Weitz, who portrays "EVElyn", a lovely little Gemini sociopath, to Paul Rudd's Adam: -=- this is NOT a spoiler because it's mentioned in the film's synopsis here at imdb -=- Weitz' character brutally exploits Rudd's character under the guise of an 'art' project for school, but in reality, her project would have been more appropriate for a psychology class experiment or even more appropriately, for a dissertation in Sadism 101.
The film does the same thing - from the title, it seems like it's some sort of commentary on our society but in reality it's just an excessively mean-spirited indulgence on LaBute's part. There is no truth here, not really, and because of this, the acting isn't very good either, especially in the scenes where Rudd is supposed to be devastated by Weitz' betrayal -- at no time do we actually feel anything resembling reality in his reaction to her cruelty. He doesn't transmit genuine hurt or anger or any combination of those two, and when he sort of acts like he's crying, it's even less believable. Sort of like the film itself.
Very impressive in the way that it leaves a lasting impression, which good films should. The details keep returning to me long after seeing it. Obviously the kind of film that deserves a second viewing. Great cast, their ages being immaterial to me. The crafting of the story and the conviction of the actors was what mattered, and what a breath of fresh air to observe such long scenes, one after the other, without any flashy, distracting camera work. Ms Weisz and Mr Labute have created a modern day Femme Fatale - how refreshing! This is the first film I've publicly applauded in a cinema since The Magdalene Sisters. Get out to the cinema and see this now before it hits video.
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