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Tag Archives: Rachael Weisz
With Role Models opening near the top of the box office (and, really, coming in second to a bunch of computer animated animals says more about the quality of the audience than the quality of a film), actor Paul Rudd now has both one of his biggest ever openings and his first mainstream lead role. If there’s any justice in the world (which, as we all know, may not be the case) Role Models will make Rudd a big-time, big-money star, and I for one couldn’t be more glad if that happened; Rudd’s a tremendously gifted comedic actor — just the way he says the word ‘No’ throughout Role Models is like watching a jazz player work a single note up and down the scales — but he’s also a real acting talent, which is partly why, after laughing myself stupid at Role Models, I went back to a sharper, smarter performance by Rudd in 2003′s The Shape of Things.
Directed and written by Neil LaBute — bringing his stage play to the screen — The Shape of Things revolves around Adam (Rudd) and Evelyn (Rachael Weisz). They meet when Adam’s working his security guard job at the museum; Evelyn hops the velvet rope to photograph a statue and he cautions her to move back: “You’re over the line.” “Hmm?” “You’re over the line, Miss. …” “It’s ‘Ms.’ …” And, just like that, their dynamic is set. She doesn’t move back; she’s planning on defacing the statue to negate the fig leaf over the statue’s genitals: “I don’t like art that isn’t true.” When Adam asks her for her number, she gives it to him, and he’s flabbergasted. She watches him leave. And then does what she was going to do.
Slumpy and self-doubting, Adam’s a dork who’s eager to please; Evelyn’s eager for different things entirely. She gets Adam to jog, change his hair, spiff up his wardrobe, give up glasses for contacts, change his life; meanwhile, she’s working on her big art project for her post-graduate work. She’s spending a lot of time with Adam, even with the unveiling of her art piece coming up; he never quite gets that their relationship and her project may be related. …
LaBute sprang off the screen with his debut film, In The Company of Men, and The Shape of Things is a similar story of manipulation and power; much like David Mamet, LaBute’s a moralist who’s too often, and too easily, accused of being a misogynist. LaBute doesn’t approve of what his characters do, but he’s also honest enough — and blunt enough — to acknowledge that the world inside his art can, and should, resemble the world where we live; the weak are trampled and the bad sleep well. Evelyn meets — and provokes — Adam’s friends Jenny (Gretchen Mol) and Phillip (Fred Weller), and while Jenny and Phillip both see the changes in Adam, they don’t quite see what’s behind them.
Weisz is showy, scary and a little magnificent in her role, but in many ways, Rudd’s the cornerstone of the film. We see him become a different person, but the old Adam — the one willing to submit to all of Evelyn’s cajoling and hints — is always under the surface. Shakespeare’s 116th sonnet says “Love is not love/ Which alters when it alteration finds/ Or bends with the remover to remove. …” Adam’s changing himself in pursuit of something, and by the film’s finale, you realize that the greatest crime in the story isn’t what Evelyn does to Adam but rather in how willingly and weakly he acquiesces and goes along with things.
La Bute, to his credit, doesn’t just throw his stage play up on the screen; the camera moves in confident and subtle ways, and the soundtrack is made up entirely of music by Elvis Costello — whose lyrical interest in what he, in a quote from his early career, boiled down to “revenge and guilt” makes La Bute’s use of his spooky, sexy and stark compositions a perfect choice. The Shape of Things, in the end, even with the great cast and smart choices and razor-sharp writing, comes down to Rudd — the bright light of hope in his eyes in some scenes, the dim dull darkness of doubt and depression in others. Rudd has his comedy hit now, but The Shape of Things makes it clear that he’s got a lot more to offer us in the shape of things to come.