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Theatre / The Shape of Things

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The Shape of Things is a 2001 play by Neil LaBute. It was adapted into a film in 2003, directed by LaBute and featuring the original London stage cast, which included Paul Rudd, Rachel Weisz, Gretchen Mol, and Fred Weller.

When Adam Sorenson (Rudd), an English literature major at Mercy College, meets Evelyn Ann Thompson (Weisz), an attractive graduate art student at the local museum where he works, his life takes an unexpected turn. Soon after they begin dating, Evelyn begins to prod the schlubby Adam to make dramatic lifestyle changes for the sake of his physical appearance. Immediately, Evelyn's abrasive personality puts her at odds with Adam's friend and former roommate Phillip (Weller) and Phillip's fiancée Jenny (Mol), but Adam, unlucky in love up to this point and flattered by the attention, decides to do whatever it takes to keep Evelyn in his life.

This play/film provides examples of:

  • Artistic License Education: Critics have noted that Evelyn would need the approval of her professor to do her art project, and since it involves blatantly manipulating and publicly humiliating another person, no professor would approve it, considering that doing so would surely mean they would lose their tenure and be fired if they did.
  • Artistic License Law: Averted. Evelyn knows what she's doing is very illegal, which is why she makes it a point to not only cultivate blackmail against Adam but make it clear she will use it.
  • All for Nothing: Evelyn actually makes Adam worse. As listed below he becomes more aggressive, deceitful and selfish over the course of the film. While he is conventionally more attractive, he's become a worse person. Furthermore, as a result of Evelyn he going to have a VERY hard time trusting others again.
  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: Evelyn — throughout the film, she offers Adam suggestions that improve his life in small ways before destroying his interpersonal relationships, then revealing that Adam served as nothing more than a personal project for school.
  • Becoming the Mask: Either an Inversion or a Subversion depending on how Evelyn's betrayal of Adam is played and what you think the one true thing she said to Adam might've been.
  • Did Not Get the Girl: Adam in regards to Jenny. Prior to the start of the film, he spent 3 years pining for her (and Jenny admits that the attraction was actually reciprocated), but he never worked up the nerve to ask her out. Phillip has no qualms with scooping her up though.
    • The film ends with Adam not staying with Evelyn either, since the entire relationship was a ruse for her thesis.
  • Downer Ending: While Adam ultimately gets his grandmother's ring back and removing Evelyn from his life, Evelyn's ruse has already destroyed his life. The film ends with Adam standing alone in the art gallery, replaying the moment she whispered the one true thing she told him while they were making love, implying that it will be a long while before he recovers.
  • Inopportune Voice Cracking: Adam's voice cracks when he asks for the ring back, implying he's on the verge of Manly Tears.
    Adam: It was my grandma's.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: Phillip is a massive jerk, but he is also the only one who shows concerning over Evelyn being a controlling girlfriend. He was right.
  • Karma Houdini: Evelyn, unless you count no one showing up to her Art Gallery as karma.
  • Love Dodecahedron: Adam is dating Evelyn, Jenny is dating Phillip, Adam and Jenny has some Unresolved Sexual Tension, and Evelyn and Phillip are implied to have Belligerent Sexual Tension.
  • Meet Cute: Adam and Evelyn.
  • Never My Fault: Evelyn is unrepentant over her actions and is actually confused by Adam's anger at her. In her mind, Adam is in a better place then when he started. Not that she doesn't objectively know what she did is wrong as she takes care to protect herself with blackmail if Adam goes to the police.
    • Adam himself isn't sorry for cheating on Evelyn with Jenny, nor for breaking up her and Phillip's relationship.
  • Pet the Dog: A small moment, but Evelyn does end up giving Adam his grandmother's ring without argument.
  • Silent Whisper: Adam and Evelyn whisper to each other in bed. Later when he discovers she's been videoing him for a class project, that is the only part of their relationship that remains private. The play ends with him watching that section over and over.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Adam's small monologue to Evelyn at the gallery presumably echoes the audience's thoughts on the situation:
    Don't fool yourself and think all this is art. Okay? It's a sick fuckin' joke, but it's not art. [...] And if I'm wrong about that? I mean, if I've completely missed the point here, and somehow puking up all your own shitty little neuroses is actually art, then you ought to at least realize there's a price to it all.
  • Took a Level in Jerkass: A really subtle case with Adam; Over the course of the film, due to Evelyn shaping him into societies version of a perfect man, Adam becomes more aggressive, deceitful, and selfish.
  • Unresolved Sexual Tension: Adam and Jenny.
  • Vitriolic Best Buds: Adam and Phillip.
  • Was It All a Lie?: Adam asks Evelyn this almost verbatim. In a type 1 response, everything she told him from her birthdate to her history of self-harm to her ethnicity, turns out to be a lie. The only honest thing she ever said to him was a mysterious whispered phrase the audience never hears.

Alternative Title(s): The Shape Of Things