Tuesday’s Overlooked Film: The Shape of Things (2003)

My pick this week is yet another film I caught on a lark one afternoon while watching cable TV. The Shape of Things is the filmed adaptation of the stage play, both of which were written by Neil LaBute; he also directed it. The movie starred the original theater cast – Gretchen Mol, Paul Rudd, Rachel Weisz and Fred Weller.

When I saw this film, I did not know much about Mr. LaBute’s reputation and previous body of work (I know – for shame). I just remember being quite taken aback by the premise of and outcome of the film. Further investigation led me to discover that the dark and twisted complexities of the male-female relationship dynamic are themes common in his oeuvre. It all started to make sense …


Synopsis (courtesy of Fandango):Paul Rudd stars as Adam, a shy, nerdy English student and museum guard. Rachel Weisz plays art student Evelyn, who, unawares to Adam, takes him on for an ambitious ”project.” He thinks he’s really falling in love with her, but she’s determined to see how much she can transform him into someone else. Co-starring as Adam’s friends are Gretchen Mol and Fred Weller, who can’t understand the new guy he’s becoming.

Check out the trailer here:

Let me know what you think? Is this something you are interested in? Are you familiar with any of Neil LaBute’s other work? Comment below.
* Oh yeah and don’t forget to catch more overlooked films by visiting “Overlooked Gatekeeper” Todd Mason’s blog, Sweet Freedom.


  1. “Yes, *cackle*…enter if you *dare*”…LaBute’s misanthropy, which is for some reason usually construed as primarily misogyny, is definitely on display here, but I didn’t buy it here, to the degree it’s presented, as I did with THE COMPANY OF MEN and to a lesser extent with YOUR FRIENDS AND NEIGHBORS, where the cracks were already beginning to show for me (but at least every character in the last was pretty close to clinical). Excellent cast but I don’t think it’s worth the effort they’ve put in…I wonder about RW’s co-production of it…perhaps some of her more (shall we call them challenging) statements over the years were less joking than I suspected at the time…(I haven’t seen the LaBute-scripted remake of THE WICKER MAN, but I gather there’s plenty of blame to go around there…).
    Todd Mason recently posted..Saturday Music Club on Sunday: Some Sounds of HonoluluMy Profile

    • yes I have recently learned that his works are often laced with a lovely helping of misogyny. I like the actors of course but I totally see your point.

      Thanks for the wonderful insights Todd! Hopefully it will spark a lively debate 🙂

      BTW the only other LaBute films I have seen was a short from Tribeca last year and Lakeview Terrace with Samuel L Jackson Patrick Wilson and Kerry Washington. That is the title, right?

    • And oh yeah – The Wicker Man remake. I will not ever go there I think ….

  2. I caught up with The Shape of Things when it was the movie of the month for the LAMB last year, and I enjoyed it. I do think there are some limitations that make it feel a bit too much like a stage play. However, the final act is really effective and definitely reminded me that I was watching a Neil Labute movie. It’s so brutal yet fits with what we see from Rachel Weisz’s character right from the start. It’s not going to wow everyone, but it definitely deserves more attention. Nice work!
    Dan Heaton recently posted..Decaying Cities Marathon: The Interrupters (2011)My Profile

  3. Yes, I’ll definitely argue that LaBute’s view of men is no more affectionate than that of women…so that to attempt to isolate his misogyny for special attention of any sort is to miss much of his point. Certainly, IN THE COMPANY OF MEN isn’t actually misogynist at all…though its primary characters certainly are. And are not the least celebrated for it.

    This one asks us to suspend belief to an even greater degree than his first two features…he didn’t write LAKEVIEW TERRACE, though he did direct it (I haven’t seen more than a few minutes of that one), and I do tend to think of him as most importantly a writer…certainly, THE SHAPE OF THINGS, as Dan Heaton almost notes, started as a stage play, iinm.
    Todd Mason recently posted..Tuesday’s Overlooked Films and/or Other A/V: the linksMy Profile

  4. Wow, definitely overlooked as I’ve never even heard of this one.
    ruth recently posted..A trio of casting news I’m excited about: Karl Urban, Rebecca Hall & Alessandro NivolaMy Profile

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