Neil LaBute likes to provoke. His latest--adapted from his play of the same name--is another of his morality tales, a downer of a love story with messages about gender roles, the nature of art and societal concepts of beauty. Paul Rudd, in an exceptional performance, plays a nebbish college student who falls for arty Rachel Weisz. But his coupled pals (Frederick Weller and Gretchen Mol) have doubts about their friend's new romance, putting a strain on all concerned.
As the tensions mount, the film becomes ever more engrossing--up until its crushing end. Despite the script's occasional pretentiousness, LaBute's characters are fully formed, and the solid story is rendered with humor and perversity. No wonder the entire soundtrack consists entirely of Elvis Costello's bitter music.