The Rules of Attraction

The Rules of Attraction Information

The Rules of Attraction is a 2002 comedy-drama film written and directed by Roger Avary, based on the novel of the same name by Bret Easton Ellis. It stars James van der Beek, Shannyn Sossamon, Ian Somerhalder, Jessica Biel, and Kip Pardue.


Set at the fictional Camden College in New Hampshire, the film opens at the "End of the World" party, where students Lauren Hynde, Paul Denton, and Sean Bateman give apathetic interior monologues on their lives and briefly exchange glances with one another. Lauren, previously a virgin, takes a film student upstairs to have sex, only to wake up being raped by a townie while the film student records it; upon waking, she reflects on how she had planned to lose her virginity to Victor, her now ex-boyfriend. Meanwhile, Paul tries to have sex with a jock, only to be bashed when it turns out he is deeply closeted; additionally, a bruised Sean tears up a purple letter, before approaching and having sex with a blonde girl at the party.

The plot then moves backwards several months and explores the love triangle between Lauren, Paul, and Sean. Misinterpreting Sean's friendliness, Paul mistakes him for a homosexual and makes several advances that Sean is apparently oblivious to. Concurrently, Lauren also finds herself attracted to Sean despite saving her virginity for her traveling boyfriend, Victor. Sean reciprocates her feelings, and assumes the anonymous, purple love letters he has started receiving are from her.

While Paul is visiting his friend, Dick, Sean is seduced by Lauren's roommate Lara, who tells him that Lauren isn't interested in him because she has a boyfriend; despite having sex with Lara, however, Sean regrets it and realizes that he is in love with Lauren. It is then revealed that another, unnamed girl is the author of Sean's love letters; after seeing him leave the party with Lara, she sends him a suicide note before cutting her wrists in the dorm bathtub. Lauren, finding Sean with Lara, runs to the girls bathroom in anger, only to find the unnamed girl's corpse, leaving Lauren extremely distressed. Sean, still believing Lauren wrote the purple letters, misinterprets the suicide note and assumes Lauren never wants to be with him.

After numerous failed attempts at suicide, Sean then fakes his death and, unaware that Lauren recently found a corpse, unintentionally upsets her further when she finds him pretending to be dead. After stealing drugs from dealer Rupert, Sean tries to speak to Lauren again, only for her to brush him off angrily. Finally happy now that Victor has returned to Camden College, Lauren is completely distraught to find Victor has no idea who she is.

Paul, upon finding a drunk Sean, tries to talk to him, only for Sean to reject him, causing Paul to run off upset. Sean then finds that the love notes have stopped, and is beaten by Rupert and Rupert's Jamaican partner, Guest. The protagonists then attend the "End of the World" party and the plot returns to the introduction. After seeing Lauren heading upstairs with the filmmaker, Sean finally accepts he cannot be with her, and tears up one of the purple letters he believes to be from her. It's then revealed that, rather than having sex with the blonde girl as he does in the intro, Sean was merely fantasizing, and he instead leaves his drink and exits. Paul and Lauren then meet on the house porch and reflect on the events of the movie and on Sean, who is seen leaving on a motorcycle. Sean then begins narrating his thoughts, only for them to end prematurely.


  • James van der Beek as Sean Bateman, a drug dealer. The character is in fact the younger brother of Patrick Bateman, the antihero of American Psycho.
  • Shannyn Sossamon as Lauren Hynde, a virgin who is saving herself for Victor, her ex-boyfriend, who is travelling through Europe. She develops feelings for Sean, which dissipate when she discovers him in bed with her roommate. Eventually she is raped by a 'townie' at a party.
  • Ian Somerhalder as Paul Denton, Lauren's bisexual ex-boyfriend. He develops a sexual attraction to Sean, who eventually rejects him.
  • Jessica Biel as Lara Holleran, Lauren's promiscuous roommate.
  • Kip Pardue as Victor Johnson, Lauren's promiscuous ex-boyfriend.
  • Clifton Collins, Jr. as Rupert Guest, a high-strung drug dealer who is owed a large debt by Sean.
  • Thomas Ian Nicholas as Mitchell Allen, a weaselly cohort who seems to idolize brutish Victor.
  • Russell Sams as Richard "Dick" Jared, an old friend and former fuck buddy of Paul's. His mother is a friend of Paul's mother.
  • Faye Dunaway as Mrs. Eve Denton, Paul's mother.
  • Eric Stoltz as Mr. Lance Lawson, a college teacher who tries to seduce Lauren.
  • Fred Savage as Marc, a heroin-addicted student who owes Sean money for drugs.
  • Theresa Wayman as "Food Service Girl", an unnamed character who writes Sean love notes that he mistakenly believes come from Lauren.
  • Kate Bosworth as Kelly, a girl from the party whom Sean takes back to his room.
  • Jay Baruchel as Harry, a French exchange student and friend of Paul.
  • Joel Michaely as Raymond
  • Sara Dallin as herself
  • Keren Woodward as herself
  • Clare Kramer as Candice
  • Swoosie Kurtz as Mimi Jared, Richard's uptight mother
  • Ron Jeremy Hyatt as the piano player
  • Paul Williams as doctor


The film was shot at the University of Redlands in California.

The film was one of the first studio motion pictures to be edited using Final Cut Pro. Using a beta version of FCP 3, it demonstrated to the film industry that successful 3:2 pulldown matchback to 24fps could be achieved with an off-the-shelf product. Roger Avary, the film's director, became a spokesperson for FCP, appearing in print ads worldwide.


Much of the source music and score is by the duo of Andy Milburn and Tom Hadju, collectively known as tomandandy. Additional songs that are in the film are from the era in which the book takes place, including The Cure, Love and Rockets, Blondie, The Go-Go's, Yazoo, and Erasure. The film also includes songs by The Rapture, Milla Jovovich, Der Wolf, and Serge Gainsbourg.

Releases and versions

Multiple versions of the film exist, as cuts were made so it could receive less restrictive ratings in the U.S. and other areas.

Lions Gate Films originally received an NC-17 rating from the MPAA, but director Avary made cuts to the film in order to achieve an R rating, for "strong sexual content, drug use, language, and violent images".

The Australian version of the film is uncut, retaining 22 seconds that were removed in the R-rated US version.

The French 2-disc Special Edition entitled Les Lois De L'Attraction is the longest known version available. It contains a small number of scenes not shown in the US and UK DVDs and also includes more footage of the suicide scene (including the girl actually cutting into her wrists, instead of just seeing her reaction). It also includes more content in commentary tracks than the other DVDs available.

The uncut version was shown at UK cinemas. However, the BBFC, under its power as censor under the Video Recordings Act 1984, shortened the suicide scene, even at the highest (18+) rating.


Critical reception

The Rules of Attraction received decidedly mixed reviews"?getting 44% "rotten" reviews from Rotten Tomatoes, and faring slightly better on Metacritic, getting a score of 50 out of 100 from reviewers, though with an average score of 7.0/10 from users. According to The New York Times, "if The Rules of Attraction, a much more faithful novel-to-screen adaptation than American Psycho, its reverence for its source proves to be its biggest problem. Where Mary Harron re-invented American Psycho as an elegant comic horror film, Roger Avary, who wrote and directed The Rules of Attraction, dives headlong into the depravity roiling in the student body of the fictional Camden College. Where Ms. Harron shrewdly created a surreal, high-styled ambiance for Mr. Ellis's monstrous humanoids to rattle around in, Mr. Avary wants to convince us that his movie's dissipated symbols of late capitalist excess really exist. The harder the movie tries to shock, the shriller it rings." Richard Corliss characterized the film as a "frenetically chic look at a daisy chain of collegiate craving...Sex, drugs and rack 'n' ruin; pretty people doing nasty things to one another...honestly, what more could you want in a movie?".

Author's reception

Bret Easton Ellis has said, "My favorite movie out of the four was The Rules of Attraction. I thought it was the only one that captured the sensibility of the novel in a cinematic way. I know I'm sounding like a film critic on that, but I'm talking about that in an emotional way "? as the writer of the novel. I watched that movie and thought they got it in a way that Mary Harron [director of American Psycho] didn't and Less Than Zero didn't."

Box office

The film grossed $11,819,244 worldwide on a budget of $4 million, thus making the film a minor box office success.


At the 14th GLAAD Media Awards, the film was nominated for Best Film - Wide Release by the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, losing to The Hours.

Cult following

Though the film has inspired mixed critical reaction, it has become something of a cult classic, which was covered by The A.V. Club for their "New Cult Canon" feature. In 2012 Entertainment Weekly cited the film as one of the "50 Best Movies You've Never Seen". In an April 2009 interview, author Ellis stated that the film adaptation of The Rules of Attraction came closest of all the movies based on his books to capturing his sensibility and recreating the world he created in his novels. On Friday April 24th, 2009, the film was shown on Film4 as part of the "Great Adaptations" series.

Home media

The DVD was released on February 18, 2003 by Lions Gate Entertainment. The DVD includes trailers and an audio commentary by Carrot Top, despite having nothing to do with the making of the film. He often comments on the attractiveness of each actress, begs Eric Stoltz for work every time he's on screen, and even occasionally sings along with the songs in the film, all the while making a number of self-deprecating jokes. The DVD also features other commentaries.

See also

This webpage uses material from the Wikipedia article "The_Rules_of_Attraction_%28film%29" and is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. Reality TV World is not responsible for any errors or omissions the Wikipedia article may contain.



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