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September 19, 2000 11:44pm
''Attraction'' repels
Source: Reuters/Variety
by: Todd McCarthy

(HOLLYWOOD, CA) -- ``Turn-Off'' would be a more appropriate title for ``Attraction,'' an irritating study of sexual obsession and voyeurism in which a quartet of highly neurotic people treat each other in ways that are alternately obnoxious and inexplicable.

With its uniformly unpersonable characters and mannered direction by first-timer Russell DeGrazier, this Trimark release looks like a short-timer theatrically and lacks the sizzle to make it a hot video title.

Although split up for months, creepy alt-newpaper columnist Matthew (Matthew Settle) still hasn't gotten over former girlfriend Liz (Gretchen Mol). When sleeping in his car outside her apartment doesn't serve to charm her back into his arms, Matthew tries to make Liz jealous by bedding her friend Corey (Samantha Mathis), a nutty actress in a dither over whether she should appear nude in an upcoming little theater production.

All the same, Matthew continues to stalk Liz, while he in turn begins to be followed by his editor Garrett (Tom Everett Scott), who ostensibly just wants to protect Liz but soon joins Matthew as living validation of women's perennial complaints about how difficult it is to find good men to date in L.A.

The men and women here sleep with people for all the wrong reasons and it's a wonder that, as the attractive center of this sordid little circle, Liz just doesn't flush all these abusive cretins out of her life and move on. Almost every conversation is tense and weird, with the characters unable to speak in a normal manner, and running time would be considerably shorter if the constant repetitions of the lines ``I need to talk'' and ``I don't want to talk about it'' were eliminated.

Added demerits come from the revelation that the warped Matthew has somehow qualified to host a call-in radio advice show and that DeGrazier resorts to the tired device of shrink confessions in a useless attempt to illuminate and/or generate sympathy for his putative protag.

The four principal characters are totally messed up, but in bland and uninteresting ways, a condition the actors can do little to relieve or make relevant. Only an amazingly charismatic actor might have been able to make Matthew palatable -- and then only maybe -- but Settle can't provide any hints of the vulnerability or missing synapses beneath the bravado. Mathis goes the furthest toward creating a recognizable person, while Mol is once again used as pleasant decoration and Scott plays a guy you'd go out of your way to avoid in real life.

Craft contributions are serviceable.

Corey ....... Samantha Mathis

Liz ......... Gretchen Mol

Garrett ..... Tom Everett Scott

Matthew ..... Matthew Settle

A Trimark Pictures release of a Krauss-DeGrazier/Capital Arts production. Produced by Mike Elliot, Jon Krauss. Executive producers, Mark Amin, Robin Schorr. Co-producer, Steven Pearl.

Directed, written by Russell DeGrazier. Camera (CFI color), Mike Price; editor, Glen Garland; music, Graeme Revell; production designers, Mariano Diaz, Angela Stauffer, John Frazier; costume designer, Alix Hester; sound, Alan Samuels; supervising sound editor, Michael Payne; assistant director, Andrew Coffing. Reviewed at Toronto Film Festival (Contemporary World Cinema), Sept. 11, 2000.

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