Harry Potter!
Cinema Signal:

Directing Actors:
Creating Memorable Performances for Film & Television
by Judith Weston

. "The Shape of Things"

The shape of this thing someone calls a movie is warped. It's also demented, wrong headed and a desperate attempt to find work. I understand that a very big talent like Rachel Weisz hasn't been in enough movies lately as befits her beauty and ability, and actors need to keep their instruments honed. But one wishes she would hold out against doing such trivia.

This is a four-character play masquerading as a movie. Scenes are between the varying members of that cast in all the possible combinations, with the intent of presenting one kind of deranged manipulation in the war between the sexes. It is as dishonest a film as I can remember and almost as academically presumptuous as ("Waking Life").

It's dishonest, first, in its theatrical phraseology and rhythms of speech. Second, in motivations contrived to promote a cynical concept. Third, in the artificial evolvement of the male lead. Plus more, but let's leave it there.

Nebbish Adam (Paul Rudd ("The Chateau") meets stunning performance art student Evelyn (Rachel Weisz) as she's about to deface a mostly nude, classical statue in the museum, not as part of the thesis she's working on, but as an activist with the extreme views typical to the genus. Both are students at the university, with Adam at his day job as the museum's security guard. He can no more throw her out, as her actions would dictate, than he can resist her clearly hot look.

She takes him under tow, professing her attraction to him despite his natural shyness and utter lack of confidence (it works for Adam Sandler), gradually reversing those personality defects until he might be considered the "hottie" that the real Paul Rudd might be considered by some to be.

Enter Adam's roommate, insensitive creep Philip (Frederick Weller) and his perky fiance Jenny (Gretchen Mol) who, it turns out, originally had eyes for the previous and gentler Adam. Now, seeing him in his slicker, more confident materialization, she begins to doubt her betrothal to Philip whose tendency toward the gross insult is wearing thin.

All of which is built on a foundation of misguided purpose in a plot that defies even the barest satisfactions in its resolution. Not wanting to reveal the disclosure in the last act, I can only say to Rachel Weisz, "This may have been an opportunity for you to star and essentially carry a picture, but, gee, I wish you hadn't done it with this particular piece of scheming artificiality."

As for writer-director Neil LaBute, who seems to find much to write about in the university setting ("Possession") and does well with other writers' comedy scripts ("Nurse Betty"), we hope he can come up with something with a more plausible shape, a more meaningful title, and less crass intent next time out.

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                                      ~~  Jules Brenner  

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Rachel Weisz, student of performance art, and Paul Rudd, museum guard with little backbone

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