The Rules of Attraction (film)

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The Rules of Attraction
Theatrical release poster
Directed byRoger Avary
Screenplay byRoger Avary
Based onThe Rules of Attraction
by Bret Easton Ellis
Produced byGreg Shapiro
CinematographyRobert Brinkmann
Edited bySharon Rutter
Music bytomandandy
  • Kingsgate Films
  • Roger Avary Filmproduktion GmbH
Distributed by
Release dates
  • October 11, 2002 (2002-10-11) (United States)
  • May 1, 2003 (2003-05-01) (Germany)
Running time
110 minutes[1]
  • United States
  • Germany
Budget$4 million[2]
Box office$11.8 million[2]

The Rules of Attraction is a 2002 black comedy-drama film written and directed by Roger Avary and based on Bret Easton Ellis's 1987 novel of the same title. The film was distributed by Lions Gate Films. The story follows three Camden College students who become entangled in a love triangle with a drug dealer, a virgin, and a bisexual classmate. It stars James Van Der Beek, Shannyn Sossamon, Ian Somerhalder, Jessica Biel, Kate Bosworth, Kip Pardue, and Joel Michaely.

The Rules of Attraction was produced by Kingsgate Films and Roger Avary Filmproduktion, and was released on October 11, 2002. It grossed $2.5 million in its opening weekend and $11.8 million worldwide, against a budget of $4 million.[2] Though it received mixed reviews from critics upon its release in 2002,[3][4] it has since been considered a cult classic.[citation needed]


Set in 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 and passes out; she wakes to find herself being raped by a townie while the film student records it, and reflects on how she had planned to lose her virginity to Victor, her now ex-boyfriend. Meanwhile, Paul, who is bisexual, tries to have sex with a jock, only to be bashed when the jock, deeply in the closet, rejects his advances. A bruised and beaten Sean is shown drinking a whole bottle of Jack Daniel's, tearing up a series of purple letters, before approaching and having sex with a blonde girl at the party.

The plot then moves backwards several months to the beginning of the school year, and explores the love triangle between Lauren, Paul, and Sean. Misinterpreting Sean's willingness to spend time with him, Paul makes several advances, to which Sean is oblivious. Paul fantasizes about having sex with Sean while masturbating. 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 Lauren. Sean masturbates to reading these letters and fantasizes about Lauren.

While Paul is visiting his friend "Dick", Sean has sex with Lauren's roommate Lara at the "Dressed to Get Screwed" party. Sean regrets it immediately, and realizes that he is in love with Lauren. It is then revealed that another, unnamed cafeteria 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 tears, only to find the unnamed girl's body, leaving Lauren extremely distressed. Sean, still believing Lauren wrote the purple letters, misinterprets the unnamed girl's suicide note and assumes Lauren never wants to be with him. Lauren decides to lose her virginity to her Art History professor Lance Lawson. But being married and worried about losing his tenure, he simply allows her to perform fellatio on him instead.

After numerous failed attempts at suicide, Sean 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, asking only to know her. Lauren tells Sean he will never know her, and abandons him. She approaches Victor, who has finally returned to Camden College, only to find that Victor is having sex with Lara and does not remember who Lauren is, leaving her completely distraught.

Paul, upon finding a drunk Sean, tries to talk to him, parroting Sean's own words by saying he merely wants to know him. Sean coldly rejects him, using Lauren's words to say that Paul will never know him. Paul throws a snowball at Sean, then angrily runs off in tears. Sean checks his campus mailbox in vain, only to find that the love notes have stopped. He is then cornered by Rupert and his Jamaican partner, Guest, and brutally beaten.

The three protagonists then attend the "End of the World" party and the plot returns to the introduction. After seeing Lauren heading upstairs with the film student, Sean finally accepts he cannot be with her, and tears up the purple letters he believes to be from her. It is then revealed that, rather than having sex with the blonde girl as he does in the intro, Sean has an epiphany, reconsiders and he instead leaves his drink and exits. Paul and Lauren meet on the house porch and reflect on the recent events, as well as on Sean, whom they watch depart on his motorcycle. Sean begins narrating his final thoughts only for them to end prematurely as the film cuts to the end credits, which are run backwards.



The film was shot at the University of Redlands in California.[6]

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.[7][8]

Avary stated that his goal was to create "an arthouse film for teenagers".[9] Budget constraints meant Avary had to finance the filming of Victor's European trip himself. He followed actor Kip Pardue around various countries with a handheld camera, filming him 24/7 with the actor remaining in character from the moment he stepped on the plane departing the US.[10]


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, Public Image Ltd., Blondie, The Go-Go's, Yazoo, and Erasure. The film also includes songs by The Rapture, Milla Jovovich, Der Wolf, and Serge Gainsbourg.

Mono SR[edit]

The Mono SR simplified noise reduction format for cinema was developed by tomandandy for the film in 2001–2002. It is an open source audio format that maintains the simplicity of monaural sound when motion picture delivery requirements include Dolby Digital noise reduction.

Releases and versions[edit]

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.[citation needed]

The French 2-disc Special Edition entitled Les Lois de L'Attraction is the longest known version available.[citation needed] 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.[11]

The home release of the film was supposed to include a commentary from Bret Easton Ellis. The author recalled on his podcast how he had been up late doing drugs the night before the recording session and had forgotten about it. He attended the session anyway, but gave a rambling commentary that was unusable.[12]


Critical reception[edit]

The Rules of Attraction received mixed reviews from critics. It has a "rotten" approval rating of 44% on review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes based on 142 reviews, with an average rating of 5.4/10. The site's consensus reads: "A tiresome movie about unsympathetic college kids engaging in self-destructive behaviors".[3] On Metacritic, it has a score of 50 out of 100 based on reviews from 30 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews".[4] According to Stephen Holden of 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."[13] 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?".[14]

Roger Ebert described the film as a "skillfully made movie about reprehensible people", giving it two out of four stars. Regarding the main characters, he stated " the end, I felt a sad indifference. These characters are not from life and do not form into a useful fiction. Their excesses of sex and substance abuse are physically unwise, financially unlikely and emotionally impossible. I do not censor their behavior but lament the movie's fascination with it." Ebert concluding his review by saying "The inhabitants of "The Rules of Attraction" are superficial and transparent. We know people like that, and hope they will get better."[15]

Author's reception[edit]

Bret Easton Ellis spoke positively of the film in 2010 when speaking of film adaptations of his writing, stating "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."[16]

Box office[edit]

The film grossed $11,819,244 worldwide on a budget of $4 million, thus making the film a minor box office success.[2]


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.[17]

Cult following[edit]

Though the film received a mixed critical reaction upon its release in 2002, it has since been referred to as a cult classic, and was covered by The A.V. Club for their "New Cult Canon" feature.[18] In 2012, Entertainment Weekly cited the film as one of the "50 Best Movies You've Never Seen".[19] 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.[20]

Home media[edit]

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 is on screen, and even occasionally sings along with the songs in the film, all the while making a number of self-deprecating jokes. Bret Easton Ellis later admitted on his podcast that Carrot Top was called in to replace his own commentary, which had been made under the influence of cocaine and tequila and merely observed the action onscreen.[21] The DVD also features other commentaries from the cast and crew, including adult film performer Ron Jeremy speaking on one of the commentaries (one of the characters in the film mentions Jeremy's name in passing).

TV series[edit]

In May 2014, Bravo announced that it would produce a TV series inspired by the book and film written by Avary for Lionsgate Television with Greg Shapiro serving as an executive producer.[22]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "THE RULES OF ATTRACTION (18)". British Board of Film Classification. November 7, 2002. Retrieved May 17, 2013.
  2. ^ a b c d "The Rules of Attraction (2002)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved July 24, 2011.
  3. ^ a b "The Rules of Attraction". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved November 18, 2022.
  4. ^ a b The Rules of Attraction at Metacritic Edit this at Wikidata
  5. ^ "The Rules of Attraction (2002) Trivia". IMDb. Retrieved July 28, 2020., IMDb Trivia
  6. ^ Yale Daily News Staff (2011). The Insider's Guide to the Colleges, 2012: Students on Campus Tell You What You Really Want to Know, 38th Edition. St. Martin's Griffin. p. 101.
  7. ^ Apple Computer, Inc. (March 26, 1999). "Pro/Film – The Rules of Attraction". Apple. Archived from the original on November 6, 2005. Retrieved July 24, 2011.
  8. ^ "Cut to the chase". The Hollywood Reporter. Archived from the original on May 3, 2008. Retrieved August 31, 2008.
  9. ^ The Rules of Attraction' Interview. YouTube. Hollywood Archive. Archived from the original on December 13, 2021. Retrieved April 7, 2019.
  10. ^ "The B.E.E. Podcast – 10/11/19 – Roger Avary – Part 1".
  11. ^ "The Rules of Attraction rated 18 by the BBFC". British Board of Film Classification. August 27, 2003. Archived from the original on May 25, 2011. Retrieved July 24, 2011.
  12. ^ "Bret Easton Ellis Podcast – Shannyn Sossaman episode".
  13. ^ Holden, Stephen (October 11, 2002). "When a Fight Is a Thrill And Sex Is Just a Bore". The New York Times. Retrieved July 24, 2011.
  14. ^ Corliss, Richard (October 14, 2002). "The Rules of Attraction". Time. Archived from the original on December 20, 2008. Retrieved July 24, 2022.
  15. ^ Ebert, Roger. "The Rules of Attraction movie review (2002) | Roger Ebert". Retrieved January 26, 2023.
  16. ^ Williams, Wyatt (June 19, 2010). "Bret Easton Ellis talks film adaptations". Atlanta A&E Blog. Creative Loafing Atlanta. Archived from the original on June 24, 2010. Retrieved July 24, 2011.
  17. ^ "14th Annual GLAAD Media Award Winners Include The Goat and Zanna, Don't!".
  18. ^ Tobias, Scott (May 7, 2008). "The New Cult Canon: The Rules Of Attraction". The A.V. Club. Retrieved July 24, 2011.
  19. ^ "The 50 Best Movies You've Never Seen". Entertainment Weekly. July 16, 2012.[dead link]
  20. ^ Tobias, Scott (April 22, 2009). "Bret Easton Ellis | Books | Interview". The A.V. Club. Retrieved July 24, 2011.
  21. ^ Bret Easton Ellis and Jay McInerney (Bright Lights, Big City) Discuss the 90's Drug Culture – YouTube
  22. ^ BravoTV (May 9, 2014). "Bravo Announces Three More Scripted Shows". Bravotv. Retrieved January 15, 2017.

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