When shy, insecure English student Adam (Paul Rudd) begins a relationship with radical art student Evelyn (Rachel Weisz), she takes charge of his life and brings about extreme emotional — even physical — changes in him, stirring the suspicions of his closest friends.
Writer/director Neil LaBute is a dude that seems to have fallen off his rocker within the past couple of years making flicks like Death at a Funeral, The Wicker Man, and Lakeview Terrace. Personally, I don’t know what the hell has been up with him but I think it’s time to take a look at how he was before he started losing his mind.
It’s great how LaBute structures this flick as a romantic comedy and ends up making it something that’s almost like a horror flick. With many of LaBute’s flicks we get many themes and points about humans and the emotions they have in top discussion and with this one here, it’s no different. LaBute brings up points about how we view love as. Love is something that most people would do anything for and it is definitely something that changes people, sometimes for the better and sometimes for the worst. Here, we see it in two different ways: with Adam losing weight and being a lot happier, but then we also see how he isn’t making his own decisions and basically gets bullied around into doing things he doesn’t really think he’s capable of doing. Love is definitely something that’s powerful but it’s also shown and discussed here in a way that may think twice about the person you love or that loves you. Love isn’t the only subject discussed here but it’s the only one I came out thinking about because of the reality-based truth that LaBute brings out about it. There’s a whole lot of darkness and meaness behind this though and I couldn’t help but think that LaBute knew exactly what he wanted to say, how he wanted to just let it all out through these characters, and when exactly he wanted it to happen in the film. It may not seem that hard to make your words count but there’s just so much timing that goes behind it all that makes LaBute’s writing oh so perfectly.
LaBute actually adapted this film his own play and instead of making it into one big theatrical presentation, he actually just makes it exactly what it was in the first place. The film is about an hour and a half with 11 scenes taken place in 11 locations and a cast that has only four speaking parts. Yes, this is definitely like a play but I didn’t feel like this film was claustrophobic or quiet at all and keeps just about every scene moving with dialogue that pulls you in right from the get-go and never fully lets go. There’s definitely a lot of talking going on here but it’s talking that feels like real people talk rather than just another piece of “cinema talk”.
I will say though that there are some parts of this flick that I didn’t really like even though the writing definitely kept me distracted. Every time the film would transition from one scene to another, LaBute would bring out this random punk rock song that made it seem like I was watching a TV sitcom or another one of those crappy American Pie straight-to-dvd flicks. I honestly think that he could have just went from scene to scene with just silence and it would have been fine but it sort of made me feel like I was watching a whole different flick because of the music and then that all changed once the ending came up.
Another problem I had with this flick and my only complaint about this great script was that I couldn’t find myself caring much for any of the characters here except for maybe Adam, but even then, he was a little too chumpish. What LaBute does with all of his films is that he gives us characters that are just plain and simply bad people, and when I mean bad I mean like unmoral, and let us watch them as shit happens to them and they do shit onto other people. This usually works because it’s so damn interesting to watch things play out but for some odd reason I couldn’t help but think that this flick was really hard to watch just because these people were either total dicks or just people that you can’t really sympathize with. I will say though that this is one of LaBute’s specialties with just about every single one of his flicks and that’s not really something that I can say that I wasn’t expecting from a film that was done by him.
The four speaking roles are also great and make this film a lot better to watch then expected. Paul Rudd is very likable and goofy in a more nerdy than we’re used to seeing him here as Adam, and the transformation he goes through is believable but also very sad. This guy starts out as a total schlub of a guy but then starts to build up some confidence and self-esteem in him as soon as Evelyn walks into his life and then we start to see him lose weight and become a better person. Rudd is great at playing these types of likable and awkward dude roles but there’s an under-lining sense of darkness here beneath the surface and I think he gives one of his best performances that I’ve seen from him.
Rachel Weisz is also perfectly cast as Evelyn because she’s just one tough bitch that’s hard to like and enjoy but at the same time, you can’t help but realize that her presence throughout this whole flick is always known. We feel her in the room when she is around; we feel her presence when she isn’t around; and the other characters are always talking about her whether they criticize what she thinks or what she’s doing to Adam. Basically this chick is always brought up in this flick and with good reason because she’s a character that is so damn hard to read and is also one of those characters that always blurts out the truth whether or not it’s the right time to do so.
Gretchen Mol is also great in this role as this sweet girl, Jenny. It was such a huge surprise to see Mol do very well in a role that’s emotionally demanding because half of the time that I usually see her, she just gives the most wooden performance of all and totally fits this role well. Fred Weller is also perfectly cast as Phillip, aka one of the biggest dickheads I have seen on the screen in a pretty long time. Yes, Evelyn is pretty unlikable here but Phillip is even worse and just about every time I just wanted somebody to slump the hell out of this dude considering how condescending and pretentious he is. Still though, Weller is great with this character and once again, LaBute picked another great star for this role.
Consensus: The Shape of Things is definitely one of those flicks that has a whole lot of talking but features some great commentary on the way the world works with love, life, art, and what one person would do in order to be with the one that they loved and also features a great cast that ticks away just about every scene. Let me also not forget that there is a HUGE twist at the end that is definitely memorable and will have you thinking for a long, long time afterwards.