The Rules of Attraction (film)  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

The Rules of Attraction is a 2002 black comedy-drama film written and directed by Roger Avary, based on the 1987 novel of the same name by Bret Easton Ellis. It stars James van der Beek, Shannyn Sossamon, Ian Somerhalder, Jessica Biel, Kate Bosworth, and Kip Pardue.


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 gay, tries to have sex with a jock, only to be bashed when it turns out the jock is deeply closeted. 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.


Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "The Rules of Attraction (film)" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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