Rachel Weisz seems to be everywhere. From a Soviet partisan in besieged Stalingrad in "Enemy at the Gates" to a self-assured single mom in "About a Boy" and most recently as a grifter in "Confidence," she inhabits her roles with deft assurance.
Here, in Neil La Bute's play-brought-to-the-screen, "The Shape of Things," Weisz is a disturbing, thought-provoking challenging character: an artist in pursuit of a master's degree but in reality a tester of uncharted waters as she combines the creation of art with her relationship with a man who, like a canvas, is transformed from without. In this case by her.
Paul Rudd is Adam, an art gallery guard who Evelyn, the art student, first encounters in a quirky exchange that suggests an unfolding comedy. There are humorous moments but a darker side slowly emerges as Evelyn carefully encourages Adam to shed his dorky exterior. There's nothing new, of course, with the theme, "Change if you love me," but here Adam's relationship with his close friends, Phillip (Fred Weller) and Jenny (very well acted by Gretchen Moll) takes some disturbing turns. Is Evelyn a catalyst or an agitator? Is her commitment to art part of her persona or its sum total? These questions are increasingly explored in this short film. Does the name "Adam" have some esoteric meaning here?
Some plays don't travel well to the screen. This one does. La Bute's play seems to have been little altered by him for a screenplay.
What is the place of ideas and intellectual experimentation in the creation and fostering of an intimate relationship? Are there boundaries that must be respected even if truth is sacrificed in the process? Does art illuminate or camouflage the reality of a relationship? No ready answers and no final ones here but the effort yields a thought-provoking study.
Rachel Weisz's emerging and brooding intensity is the anchor for this unusual film. She also produced the movie.
The score is by Elvis Costello. His fans will appreciate the soundtrack.
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