Adam (Paul Rudd), a nerdy guard, and Evelyn (Rachel Weisz), a cool art student, meet at a museum exhibit. He tries to stop her from defacing a statue. No luck. But she takes him to bed, whispering wicked-sexy things new to this fat-assed loser. He introduces her to his college buds: Philip (Frederick Weller), a jock, and Jenny (Gretchen Mol), Philip’s fiancee. They don’t like Evelyn, who makes over Adam with hair, diet, designer threads and a nose job. Then, bam! He’s such a stud, even Jenny wants a piece.
It could be a sitcom. Since Rudd has a recurring role on Friends, you may be lulled into thinking it is. Warning: Never be lulled by Neil LaBute. The playwright (Bash, The Mercy Seat) and filmmaker (In the Company of Men, Your Friends and Neighbors) is a world-class agitator. Shape, which LaBute directed onstage in London and New York with the same superb cast, is filled with nasty jolts, notably the ending, which makes you rethink all that came before. The actors nail the comic sting in every line, punctuated by eleven prime Elvis Costello songs. LaBute shoots some scenes outdoors, though the film still feels like a play. But his ideas on art and humanity will make you hoot, holler, curse the actors, damn LaBute and argue like hell with your date. What else do you want from a movie?