Campus Confidential

Undergraduate exposé earns an F.


written and directed by Roger Avary

opens Oct. 11 at Meridian, Bella Bottega, and others

WITHIN THE FIRST five minutes of writer/director Roger Avary's film about the sordid humiliations of university students, beautiful Lauren (Shannyn Sossamon) has passed out and is being videotaped by a cute stranger while another one rapes and vomits on her. Aren't movies great?

The best you can say about Avary's pretentious take on the 1987 Bret Easton Ellis novel is that it's an appropriately crap adaptation of a crap book. The movie is as dumb as its source. I don't know if you're ready for this, but it really blows the lid off of college life: Apparently, lots of unlikable twentysomethings do drugs and have sex with other unlikable twentysomethings. (I know—I was as shocked as you are.)

James Van Der Beek is campus drug dealer Sean, who captivates pathetic bisexual Paul (Ian Somerhalder) but desires the romantic Lauren, even though he'll screw her permanently coked-up roommate Lara (Jessica Biel). Everyone's disaffected, of course. Trenchant observations like "No one knows anyone" are delivered with a sangfroid suggesting that being young and good-looking is truly sad. Oh, and the escapades sometimes play out in reverse, so you can see the rapist's vomit move back into his mouth.

Van Der Beek is seen taking a dump and gets a close-up whenever he mounts a co-ed. He seems hysterically convinced that his role will finally soil his clean-cut Dawson's Creek image. He isn't the only hopeful WB refugee: Somerhalder is a leaden wanna-be from a failed teen show, and Biel has desperately been trying for parole from that network's 7th Heaven for some time now. (Anyone who saw her in the Freddie Prinze Jr. vehicle Summer Catch knows she deserves to serve out the rest of her sentence.) It's clear that the movie was made to give a bunch of struggling young actors the chance to look hip. You even get The Wonder Years' Fred Savage shooting up and moaning, "I can feel my dick," as though his career depended on it. Only doe-eyed Sossamon appears to be human, which makes her debasement all the more vile.

Given Avary's reputation as Quentin Tarantino's Oscar-winning co-screenwriter, it'd be easy to call this Pulp Freshman, but he actually has a collegiate Boogie Nights in mind, right up to the '70s soundtrack and a would-be drug score gone violently awry. Yet the big difference between Avary's pretenses and Nights' indulgences is the reprehensible lack of real feeling for anyone here. His film is nothing more than some puke and a pose.

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