Friday, May 16, 2003


Writer-director Neil LaBute’s new film THE SHAPE OF THINGS adapted from a play is his latest misanthropic take on relationships and a meditation on what is art. Rachel Weisz is outstanding as Evelyn the beautiful, controlling M.F.A student at Mercy College who dates undergrad Adam played by the adequate Paul Rudd. Evelyn manipulates and molds Adam, transforming him from a meek, overweight nerd to confident, cute hipster. Out goes the brown corduroy blazer Adam has had for years and in comes the cool nuevo-retro looking jacket. His nose undergoes a little snip as does his hair and his cuteness emerges, as does a newfound confidence.

Edgy, disturbing and provocative the film will most likely elicit quite a bit of discomfort as you watch Evelyn (Eve) reshape the hapless Adam who is like a lamb led to slaughter. She devours him in every way- spiritually, psychologically and physically spitting him out in a surprise ending that was pretty darn hard to sit through. LaBute’s reference to Medea in the film isn’t coincidental. Evelyn is a powerful sorceress who although doesn’t murder any kids in the film but is at times a scary woman who eventually in the name of art does something pretty horrific.

Good acting all around including Gretchen Mol as Adam’s friend Jenny and Frederick Weller as Phil, Jenny’s boyfriend.

Monday, May 12, 2003

BETTER LUCK TOMORROW, directed by 31-year-old Justin Lin and written by Mr. Lin, Ernesto M. Foronda and Fabian Marquez, is the darkest portrayal of Asian Americans on screen to date. Talk about controversy. The film is stirring up a lot of that, particularly at its 2002 Sundance screening where Roger Ebert stood on a chair and defended its portrayal of Orange County Asian American high school students who are over-achievers with a penchant for guns, drugs and sex. The film chronicles high school senior Ben Manibag played by Parry Shen, and his three partners in crime; Virgil Hu, Han, and Daric Loo, as they sell cheat sheets, drugs and eventually commit murder and whose primary motivation is teenage boredom. A little coke sniffing helps alleviate the pressure of SAT scores and Ivy League college applications.

The film smashes the stereotype of Asian Americans as squeaky-clean over-achievers and apparently Lin has been criticized for this unflattering, yet authentic representation of his community. The film is based on a true story that happened at an Orange County High School a few years ago. One criticism is that the actors look more like grad students than high school students. Made on a tiny budget of $250,000 or $500,000 (I have read bith figures) it has been picked up by MTV Films.