I suspected based on reviews going in that this was a bad movie. My reason for seeing it was that I had never seen a movie in this sub-genre before (unless you want to count Rage or Taxi Driver but I’d say that’s borderline)… the same sub-genre shared by American Psycho and A Clockwork Orange. I guess you can call that sub-genre “Violent sociopathic Nihilism”, although Rules of Attraction was mostly minus the violence.
Among the audience I saw several obvious dates… an unwise choice for someone looking to score as this of all movies made me NOT want to have sex.
The film’s major problem is that it attempts to be a parable about what could happen among the youth Nihilist culture, but its so over-the-top that it plays out like an alternate reality in which self-loathing dominates. I guess you could say it goes so far that the journey which produced its conclusions is not understood.
The hospital scene to me exemplifies the movie, and is the best scene in a movie in need of them.
There are two interpretations to the scene…
#1: The kids are truly scared for the victim’s life, and rush him to the hospital for help. The sociopathic Nihilists (almost everyone in this film is one) who ostensibly are nurses and doctors are nearly entirely unconcerned with the victim’s life, and finally in a kind of petulant exasperation the doctor comes over and soon after the victim recovers.
#2: The kids are enacting a kind of pathetic play, the victim is never in any real danger, and they undergo this play in order to seem as if they are caring for someone in need. The doctors and nurses who have been unwilling participants in this play in the past have little concern because they know there is no danger, and finally in exasperation the doctor comes over and “heals” the “victim”.
#2 is the more obvious choice for interpretation of this scene, but notice that in the alternative interpretation the OTHER side (the doctors/nurses as opposed to the kids/victim) is treated in the same manner (as sociopathic Nihilists) as the kids/victim are in #2. Very clever.
Rules of Attraction is a bad movie due to its incredible sloppiness (scene construction in many cases is very bad) and over-the-top nature, but I did admire it in that the only respectable character in the film (semi-respectable anyway) commits suicide, thus providing the audience with no character to care for. This is precisely the sort of film that should have NO good characters, and I’m glad it was brave enough (or foolish enough, given reviewer response) to do so.
The movie is primarily about characters who cannot feel any emotion except the LACK of emotion, and proceed to generate signifiers of emotion in order to seem as if they have real ones. The snowflake tear, the false suicide, the hospital scene, etc.
Aptly enough, many reviewers claimed as a criticism of the movie that they didn’t care for any of the characters and Ebert denounced the snowflake tear. Dumbasses.