The Shape Of Things (15)

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The ViewLondon Review

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Review byMatthew Turner21/10/2003

Three out of Five stars
Running time: 96 mins

Well-acted and deliberately stagey, this is a controversial, typically misogynistic tale from writer-director Neil LaBute that is certain to divide both critics and audiences alike.

Writer-director Neil LaBute made his name with his extraordinarily misogynistic first two features In The Company Of Men and Your Friends And Neighbours. His latest feature finds him back on familiar territory - The Shape Of Things is based on his own play and stars all four members of the original cast.

The result is a well-acted, controversy-courting relationship drama about love, manipulation, truth and art, though it’s almost guaranteed to divide both audiences and critics.

Nerdy, Overweight University Student

Paul Rudd stars as Adam, a shy, nerdy, overweight university student who has a part-time job as a museum security guard. One day he meets a beautiful art student named Evelyn (Rachel Weisz), as she’s preparing to vandalise an enormous male statue by spray-painting a penis onto it.

They begin a relationship and Evelyn gradually begins to subtly change Adam – she makes him lose weight, start wearing contacts, improves his wardrobe and even convinces him to have minor corrective surgery.

As the relationship intensifies, Adam becomes more and more attractive as a person and his bizarre evolution begins to discomfort his two best friends, Jenny (Gretchen Mol) and Philip (Fred Weller) with disturbing results.

Partly Tongue In Cheek

The film is deliberately stagey and as such it’s tempting to believe that the piece is at least partly tongue-in-cheek and not meant to be taken at face value. The camerawork is mostly static, which serves to highlight the theatricality still further, though LaBute also makes great use of rich colours, particularly reds and greens.

Given that the cast originated the parts on stage, it comes as no surprise that the performances are excellent. Adam and Evelyn (Eve / Evelyn, geddit?) aren’t exactly believable characters but Rudd’s performance ensures that Adam remains sympathetic, despite his more pathetic moments. Weisz (who also co-produced the film) is less obviously likeable and part of the fun of the film lies in figuring out what she’s up to.

The dialogue is good and there are several good scenes, including a hilariously pathetic scrap between Rudd and Weller that rivals even the one in Bridget Jones’ Diary in its uselessness. The final scenes are also particularly effective and pack a disturbing punch.

Essentially, then, your enjoyment of the film will depend on how much you buy into both the theatricality of it all and the central idea. It can be read both as twisted misogynistic fantasy or simply as an exaggerated comment on the everyday manipulation that goes on in relationships. At any rate, the film is definitely worth seeing, not least for the performances by Rudd and Weisz.

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Content updated: 16/08/2018 22:43

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