The Shape Of Things 2003 | Movie

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Adapted from his own stage play with the original cast intact, this installment in Neil LaBute's ongoing examination of the war between men and women is a bitter variation on the tale of Pygmalion and Galatea that doesn't miss a single cheap shot. La Bute'… (more)

Released: 2003

Rating: R

User Rating:5 out of 5 (1 rating)

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Reviewed by Maitland McDonagh
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Adapted from his own stage play with the original cast intact, this installment in Neil LaBute's ongoing examination of the war between men and women is a bitter variation on the tale of Pygmalion and Galatea that doesn't miss a single cheap shot. La Bute's Pygmalion is Mercy College art student Evelyn (Rachel Weisz), who meets dumpy, self-effacing English literature major Adam (Paul Rudd) in the campus museum, where she plans to commit an act of philosophical vandalism. Incensed that a marble nude has been defaced in the name of propriety — bluestockings insisted on the addition of a fig-leaf merkin — Evelyn plans to deface the defacement by painting a phallus over the offending cover-up. Adam screws up his courage to ask this firebrand for a date and, to his amazement, she accepts; what could someone so smart, stylish and beautiful possibly want with him? It quickly becomes clear that she wants a project, since she immediately sets about changing Adam. She gently nudges him to lose weight, get a haircut, stop biting his nails and invest in a new wardrobe. Adam's macho best friend, Philip (Frederick Weller), who's engaged to beautiful but insecure Jenny (Gretchen Mol), on whom Adam once nursed a secret crush, pegs Evelyn for a manipulative bitch. But Adam's hooked: She's the most exciting thing that's ever happened to him. Yes, she's polemical, pretentious and pushy, but she's also hot and seductively self-confident. No-one ever looked twice at Adam before she started polishing his rough edges. Now he's a bona fide cute guy, and Jenny's admitting shyly that she's kind of attracted to him, her engagement to the self-centered, overbearing Philip notwithstanding. What sounds like the stuff of hundreds of vapid romantic comedies is something entirely different in LaBute's hands, and there's a real sting in the story's tail. But until La Bute reveals all with a resounding "a-ha!", Evelyn, Adam, Philip and Jenny embody everything intellectually lazy and emotionally immature about college students, and their overtly issue-driven conflicts seem cliched and banal until the final twist throws everything into a new light and reveals the depths of Evelyn's modish Machiavellianism. Combined with the Mamet-lite dialogue, a medley of all-too-deliberate pauses, smug literary allusions and calculatedly careless repetitions of the word "thingie" that obscure the meaning hidden in supposedly meaningless prattle, the result is a chic, vitriolic polemic that's as irritating as it means to be provocative.

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