A contemporary story of love, sex and art, set in a college town that follows the steadily intensifying relationship between Evelyn and Adam. As Evelyn strengthens her hold on Adam, his emotional and physical evolution discomforts his friends Jenny and Philip, with unexpected consequences for all. By turns, hopeful and harsh, the collegiate quartet deals with the conflicting human desires for autonomy and connection, truth and love, and the notion that seduction is an art.
Neil LaBute, having explored his tender, humane side in "Nurse Betty" and "Possession," returns to misanthropic form in this new film, which he adapted from his own play. Rachel Weisz and Paul Rudd play a graduate-school couple whose complicated romantic byplay with another couple (Gretchen Mol and Frederick Weller) turns out to be a red herring. In the end, this turns out to be another exercise in moral shock therapy, in which important themes about the responsibility of art and the corrupting effects of erotic power are pointed at without really being explored. The whole thing is empty and tedious, a preposterous, amateurish sketch of human motivation held up as though it were a window or a mirror. Provocative, perhaps, but not at all thought-provoking. That would have required some actual thought, rather than the rehearsal of puerile assumptions and easy, cynical attitudes. — A. O. Scott
2003-05-09 | A. O. Scott | Read the New York Times Review of The Shape of Things