Trimark // 2000 // 95 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Nicholas Sylvain (Retired) // August 8th, 2001
Obsession burns beyond control.
Oh, please. Does anyone actually believe all the overheated hooey of taglines for a movie like this?
Anyway, Attraction is a character-focused, intimate film about relationships from first-time director Russell DeGrazier. Sadly, the film ends up more boring than absorbing, but mercifully, the short running time kept me from any significant mental injury. For a film that few have or will see, Trimark presents a good technical presentation and adequate extra content.
Matthew (Matthew Settle) isn't taking his break-up from Liz (Gretchen Mol) very well. Parking in front of her house and watching her at night, calling her and hanging up, some might call him a stalker. His boss and friend, Garrett (Tom Everett Scott), is concerned for both Liz and Matthew. However, when Liz's friend Corey (Samantha Mathis) chats up Matthew at a bar and the two of them do the bump and tickle, his focus on Liz seems to fade.
Until, that is, Garrett takes it upon himself to turn the tables on Matthew and give him a taste of the stalker medicine. The pair begins a strangely competitive pas de deux around Liz, whose own mind games reveal her to be far less the vulnerable victim than she might have seemed at first. Corey slowly begins to realize the dangerous world she has entered. Something has to give, and someone has to die.
A smart, engrossing thriller needs only a few critical elements. One, the film must create and maintain an effective mood to support and enhance the slow build of the plot. Two, at least one of the central characters needs to be likeable or intriguing enough so that we care what happens to them. Perhaps the latter element is not absolutely required, but then you would need a script that is so engaging that its sheer intelligence and logic draws you into the fray. How often is that likely to happen?
Writer/director/producer Russell DeGrazier may yet make a name for himself in Hollywood, but it is not going to be on the strength of a film like Attraction. He makes clear that he aspires to a small but powerful thriller, where no character is quite who they appear to be. Well, nice try, but it doesn't work. The only character with any sympathetic appeal is Corey, but she is only a supporting role compared with the mind-game triangle of Liz, Matthew, and Garrett, and her own stupidities make sympathy for her a lukewarm proposition at best. Liz, Matthew, and Garrett are a trio to be loathed, from the top of their shallow emotions and trivial sense of morality down to the bottom of their flat characterization. A pox on all their houses, and a shame that they don't all perish in a flaming wreck. Now that is an ending I would have applauded!
None of the small cast is likely to be very familiar to audiences. Samantha Mathis (Pump Up the Volume, American Psycho) is the best of the lot, gifting her Corey with endearing naïveté and skittish mood. Gretchen Mol (Rounders, The Thirteenth Floor) and Tom Everett Scott (Grace Under Fire, That Thing You Do!) are adequate but hardly spectacular. Matthew Settle (I Still Know What You Did Last Summer, U-571, "Band of Brothers") has the dark menace for his role, but not the roguish charm.
The anamorphic video transfer is excellent. The picture is clear of nearly all manner of blips and flecks, suitably crisp and clear, with well-saturated color and deep blacks. If only all lesser known films could look this good! The audio is a standard front-centered 5.1 mix. The rear surrounds are used jarringly in the opening scene to blast in music before being abruptly silenced, as if to remind you that you have rear speakers just that one time. Otherwise, you get some rear ambient sound, and a little thump from your subwoofer, but that's about it.
Russell DeGrazier shows enough cinematic flair that his career is not without hope. By directing the camera almost exclusively on the four main characters, hardly showing any other person, even if they have dialogue, he limits distractions from the overall focus of the film. Unfortunately for him, a tighter focus does not improve Attraction. I also appreciated the frequent use of ambient lighting and a high-speed Kodak film stock, creating a very natural and pleasing look for those scenes.
Though I appreciate Trimark's efforts in collecting the extra content, they need to pay more attention to the details next time. The interview snippets with Russell DeGrazier and the cast (minus Tom Everett Scott), two or three per person, must each be individually selected from the menu. I found this to be an annoying design choice, when simply having each interviewee's segments run together, or having them all run in sequence, would have been much sounder choices. The commentary is not advertised on the box, and is only labeled as a director's commentary on the disc menus, when it in fact includes editor Glenn Garland and director of photography Michael Price as well as Russell DeGrazier. Worse is the commentary itself, which has DeGrazier over in the left channel and the other two in the right, sounding quite odd by comparison. It is further plagued by extended gaps that invite the listener to lose concentration and drift off. So as not to seem rude, I took advantage of the invitation.
The fifteen minutes of "Character Interviews" were intended to be used in the film, but with the exception of a modest portion of Matthew's, they were omitted for pacing reasons. These segments do provide insight into the characters, but as I cared not for the characters, neither did I care to learn more about them. The theatrical trailer is as expected, and the energetic, lyrical four-minute music video ("Beautiful" by Joydrop) was perhaps the best extra content of all.
Attraction may be of interest to fans of the actors involved, but I can't imagine anyone who would be dying to see this film. If you want to see "the dark side of desire" then go get Play Misty for Me or another such film, and give Attraction a pass. Rent if you must, and purchase ($25 retail) only on a dare.
Trimark is commended for a reasonable presentation, though not without room for improvement. Attraction is guilty of boring me, though the Court would consider terminating Russell DeGrazier's probation and sentence of community service if his next film shows improvement.
Review content copyright © 2001 Nicholas Sylvain; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
Running Time: 95 Minutes
Release Year: 2000
MPAA Rating: Rated R
* Director and Crew Commentary
* Theatrical Trailer
* Music Video
* Character Interviews
* Actor and Director Interviews