The Shape Of Things (2002)


Critic Consensus: LaBute returns to his earlier themes of cruelty in relationships, and the results hit hard.


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After a detour into lighter and more compassionate fare with Nurse Betty and Possession, Neil LaBute returns to the themes of his earlier films with this dark and corrosive look at male-female relationships. Adam (Paul Rudd) is a chubby, bespectacled nebbish of a college student who makes money in his spare time as a security guard at the university's art museum. One evening at work, Adam spies another student preparing to deface a statue -- Evelyn (Rachel Weisz), a beautiful art major who is offended by a fig leaf that's been used to "censor" a statue of a nude male, and is prepared to replace the disguised member with spray paint. Adam can't quite bring himself to kick Evelyn out of the museum, and she responds by giving him her phone number. Adam and Evelyn begin dating, and as she challenges his ideas about art and morality, she begins remaking Adam into the sort of boyfriend she'd prefer. Under her influence, Adam loses weight, gets contact lenses, changes his hairstyle, starts dressing better, and assumes a cooler and more confident personality. Adam's pal Philip (Frederick Weller) notices the changes in his friend and isn't happy with the way Evelyn has been molding Adam to her specifications. Adam and Evelyn have dinner one night with Philip and his fiancée, Jenny (Gretchen Mol), and before long Philip and Evelyn are at each other's throats as Adam and Jenny cower along the sidelines. The tensions between Philip and Evelyn exacerbate uneasiness between Jenny and her husband to be, while at the same time, Jenny and Adam begin to recognize a mutual attraction that's long lurked beneath the surface. The Shape of Things was adapted by LaBute from his stage drama of the same name; a selection of songs by Elvis Costello comprise the soundtrack.


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Critic Reviews for The Shape Of Things

All Critics (138) | Top Critics (44)

When the players themselves are conceived this superficially, LaBute winds up invalidating his own point.

Feb 12, 2008
AV Club
Top Critic

There are barbs here to tickle anyone's paranoia, but the callousness isn't illustrative, just exploitative.

Feb 9, 2006 | Full Review…
Time Out
Top Critic

What on earth has happened to this director?

Jan 15, 2004 | Rating: 2/5 | Full Review…

There's an immediacy to many scenes that's hard to deny. These people get under your skin and gnaw away.

May 30, 2003 | Rating: 3/5

The facial jewellery, Elvis Costello music and cell phones notwithstanding, you keep expecting these people to challenge each other to duels with rapiers at dawn.

May 16, 2003 | Rating: 3/5 | Full Review…

In The Shape of Things, love doesn't just hurt: It bites, and bites deep.

May 16, 2003 | Rating: 3/4

Audience Reviews for The Shape Of Things

Neil LaBute completes a trilogy (unofficial, of course) of films about how men and women act and treat each other. "The Shape of Things" (adapted from his stage play like his other two features, the memorable "In the Company of Men" and the dicey "Your Friends & Neighbors") is another scathing and insightful look into relationships. While you will never meet anyone like the people in this or his other films, you will recognize bits and pieces of everyone in each. The dialogue is complex and full and the performances are committed and juicy. "The Shape of Things" marks the last good film LaBute has made (for whatever reason he moves on to goofy Hollywood thrillers like "The Wicker Man" and "Lakeview Terrace" and the embarrassing "Death at a Funeral" remake- one would think those films were from a totally different human all together; my bet is he became a drug addict because no one looses such talent so quickly) but this wonderful, tricky and rewarding series of films is well worth your serious time and attention. I think "The Shape of Things" is the easiest to digest, but when taken as a whole, you will never forget any of them.

Steven Carrier
Steven Carrier

Super Reviewer

A pretty well put together film. There's parts where the "awkwardness" of a lot of the scenes overtake the mood of the movie. I didn't feel as connected to the characters as I wanted to. Weisz and Rudd are both terrific, with a twist I saw coming from miles away. Still, worth watching if you like movies featuring good acting and a story that has an "indie" sort feel to it all.

Dan Schultz
Dan Schultz

Super Reviewer

The dialogue is uncomfortably recitative and I get the feeling LeBute is doing it on purpose. Which I don't understand because my insides feel EXTREMELY constricted. In general the concept of the thing is quite interesting but this was a really weird way to approach it. I feel like Paul Rudd was misdirected, or something. All that said, I really like Rachel Weisz's American accent. She should seriously talk like that all day.

Jennifer Xu
Jennifer Xu

Super Reviewer


I got a girlfriend, she goes to art school, I got an art school girlfriend, yeah!

Evelyn: Pornography is meant to titilate and excite you. I mean does a penis excite you? Any ol' penis? Did you like what you saw? Did it get you hot?

When I saw Rachel Weizs name as the producer and sat through the first few minutes of the film, I thought I was gonna be stuck with an overly opinionated touchy feely girly movie about relationships.

All the signs were there, it looked and sounded like this is all from a womans point of view, a womans wishful thinking as to how relationships and conversations should be, and a-yada-yada-yada!

The storys plot twist is a real shocker, what seemingly started like an average girly film ended up being not so average at all. This ones got horns.

Directed by: Neil LaBute
Genres:: Dark Comedy / Drama

Ginny  X
Ginny  X

Super Reviewer

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