The Shape Of Things Jenny Analysis Essay

Drama: A student's engaged friends worry about the various changes he undergoes when he starts dating an avant-garde artist.
Adam (PAUL RUDD) is a nerdy college student who meets and is instantly smitten with Evelyn (RACHEL WEISZ), an art student who's about to deface a statue in the art museum where he works. It's not long before the two start going out, much to the chagrin of Adam's former roommate, Phillip (FREDERICK WELLER), and his fianc�e, Jenny (GRETCHEN MOL).

They're not happy with the way he's starting to change - in both appearance and demeanor - and blame her for what everyone else would probably deem a positive transformation. That eventually puts a strain on the friendship, although Adam and Jenny obviously have unresolved but never acted upon feelings for one another.

As the four try to deal with their reactions to that and each other, they're unaware of the unexpected ramifications that await them.

Unless they're fans of someone in the cast or of writer/director Neil LaBute, it doesn't seem too likely.
For language and some sexuality.
To avoid giving away any late surprises or developments, only the initial characteristics are noted here.
  • PAUL RUDD plays a college student who changes both his look and appearance after starting to date Evelyn. He uses some strong profanity and eventually cheats on her with Jenny (although we don't know to what extent beyond making out) after having sex with her.
  • RACHEL WEISZ plays an art student who starts going out with Adam and convinces or manipulates him to change his looks and behavior. She uses strong profanity, has sex with him and smokes a joint.
  • FREDERICK WELLER plays Adam's former roommate and current friend, a guy who uses strong profanity and is mean and spiteful toward Adam and Evelyn.
  • GRETCHEN MOL plays Philip's fianc�e who cheats on him with Adam (although we don't know to what extent beyond making out).


    The following is a brief summary of the content found in this R-rated drama. Profanity consists of at least 18 "f" words, while other expletives and colorful phrases are also used. Sexually related dialogue (some of it explicit) is present, as is some sexual behavior (unseen but videotaped intercourse, just off-camera oral sex, and implied intercourse) as well as various instances of people making out in public and private (including a woman licking a man's tattoo that's near his visible pubic hair).

    Various characters have varying degrees of bad attitudes, while one character briefly smokes a joint and some drinking occurs. Some imitative behavior is present, while some characters briefly push and/or struggle with each other.

    If you're still concerned about the film and its appropriateness for yourself or anyone else in your home who may be interested in seeing it, we suggest that you take a closer look at our detailed listings for more specific information regarding the film's content.

  • Phil and Jenny have wine, while Evelyn appears to have a beer. In addition, Phil might be a bit drunk (explaining his belligerence, but that could just be the way he is).
  • Evelyn smokes a joint while in bed with Adam.
  • Although we don't see the performance art exhibit, Adam is disgusted by having seen some artist paint with her menstrual blood (he and Evelyn argue about that).
  • Although we don't see her actually do it, Evelyn apparently defaces a classic statue by painting a penis onto it (in defiance of its crotch having been artificially covered up by a fig leaf of sorts put there by the museum).
  • Phillip repeatedly has a condescending attitude toward Adam (making fun of him and the way he is), and a mean and confrontational one toward Evelyn.
  • Adam and Jenny end up cheating on their significant others by making out and possibly having sex with each other.
  • Evelyn admits to reading Adam's private journal.
  • Evelyn begins to manipulate Adam, even going so far as telling him that he must choose between her and Phil & Jenny (that he can't see them anymore).
  • Evelyn hurts Adam (emotionally) in a severe fashion, and does so in front of others.
  • None.
  • None, but we see a poster with a drawing of a gun on it.
  • Phrases: "F*cking burns me up," "Un-f*cking believable," "Shut the f*ck up," "F*ck you," "This is f*cked," "F*cked up," "(That's) Bullsh*t," "Sh*tty," "You're suck a pr*ck," "You heartless c*nt," "Pisses them off," "Nuts" (crazy), "Balls" (testicles), "Who the hell do you think you are?" "Where the hell did you meet that bitch?" "Up your ass," "You dope," "Shut up," "Freaky" and "Screw you."
  • Although we don't see her actually do it, Evelyn apparently defaces a classic statue by painting a penis onto it (in defiance of its crotch having been artificially covered up by a fig leaf of sorts put there by the museum).
  • Evelyn wears a midriff-revealing top (as does Jenny later).
  • Adam gets a tattoo of Evelyn's initials near his groin, while she appears to have some sort of tattoo on her hand.
  • Evelyn gives "the finger" to the camera.
  • None.
  • None.
  • None.
  • At least 18 "f" words (1 used sexually as is the term "screw"), 9 "s" words, 9 slang terms using male genitals ("d*ck," "pr*ck" and "thing"), 1 using female genitals ("c*nt"), 4 asses, 4 hells, 1 crap, 9 uses of "God," 4 of "Oh God," 2 of "Jesus" and 1 use each of "G-damn," "Jesus Christ," "My God," "Oh Jesus" and "Oh my God" as exclamations.
  • Although we don't see her actually do it, Evelyn apparently defaces a classic statue by painting a penis onto it (in defiance of its crotch having been artificially covered up by a fig leaf of sorts put there by the museum since people complained that it was too life-like). We do see the statue and said plaster fig leaf, and she takes various close-up Polaroid photos of it (and we briefly see the statue's original stone scrotum).
  • Adam tells Evelyn that he'd be open to showering or getting dressed in front of her and vice-versa. They then briefly passionately kiss and there's a comment about running off to a bathroom stall to have sex (that doesn't occur). He later comments on her having a "great ass" and there's some additional brief, passionate kissing.
  • Phil gestures to Jenny's breasts when he says, "this could have been yours" to Adam about him not asking her out in the past.
  • Phil and Jenny get into an argument with Evelyn over the above statue incident, with Jenny saying it was pornography (Phil says that Jenny whispered the word "penis" since it's not said in her house, and then goes on to sing the word several times). Evelyn says it wasn't porn since it wasn't designed to excite and then questions whether the penis excited them, and then asks about "any old penis" (while grabbing Adam's clothed crotch). She then asks if the painted-on penis did anything for Jenny - "Did it make you hot?" -but she doesn't answer and looks embarrassed. Phil then says that one can write one's manifesto on their "thing" but their "thing" can't be one.
  • Later, Phil asks where Adam met Evelyn and wonders if she gave him a "haircut and a blow-job."
  • We see Adam and Evelyn in bed (from a distance and both are under the sheets, wearing tops). We then see that she's taking flash Polaroid shots of his crotch (nothing explicit is seen and we later only see blurred images on those shots) and it's implied that they've had sex. Adam then states that few people would sleep with him, that she's only the third person he's had sex with, and that the others were in high school. She then states that she could kind of tell that. She also shows some cleavage and we later see him put on his underwear under the covers (nothing explicit). They then make out with her sitting on the floor and him lying face first on the bed in his briefs.
  • We then see that they videotaped themselves having sex and he doesn't want to watch it back. She states it's something they should watch, as should their friends. She then wants him to smile for the camera and thus moves down to his crotch and performs oral sex on him (we see this through the viewfinder and she's just barely out of the shot, but we see his pleasured reaction and smiling).
  • Adam and Jenny end up making out in a park (with both saying they wanted to do that for a long time), they do so again later by the beach, and it's somewhat implied that they did more than that (although we never know for sure and they won't admit to it).
  • While in a waiting room, Adam jokes about a conjugal visit and then going to check out the men's room (for sex with Evelyn) and she dares him to do that. That doesn't happen, but he does show her that he had her initials (EAT) tattooed near his groin. She jokes that he couldn't afford the letter M and we then see the tattoo as well as a shot of his pubic hair as he briefly pulls down his pants and underwear. She then kneels down and licks that tattoo.
  • Evelyn states she kissed Phil and then jokes about the "blow job" she gave him.
  • Evelyn comments that Adam is a step away from "f*cking around" on her.
  • A couple makes out in a coffee shop.
  • Evelyn shows more cleavage.
  • After Adam says "Screw you" in anger to Evelyn, she says that he did "screw" her and that he can pull up a chair and watch (meaning the videotape she made of them having sex, but we don't see any playback of it). A comment is then made about "wanting to make love" and "get off on it."
  • None, but some artwork shows a person holding a pipe.
  • None.
  • Relationships and how some people try to get their partners to change to meet their needs and/or wants.
  • What constitutes art.
  • Plastic surgery.
  • Evelyn shows horizontal cut scars across her wrists that she claims were a means of getting attention when she was a teen (and weren't from a suicide attempt).
  • Mad at Phil for the way he's treated her and Adam, Evelyn rushes up and pushes him quite hard from behind. She then throws some small, toy basketball at him before leaving.
  • Phil hits Adam on the head, prompting Adam to push him backwards. The two then end up struggling on the ground until Adam races off on his bike.

  • Reviewed April 14, 2003 / Posted May 9, 2003

    The actors don’t bow at the end of Neil LaBute’s “The Shape of Things,” which says something about the shape of an evening that doesn’t want a curtain call to interrupt the inevitable debate. There’s more than a touch of self-importance to the gesture, implying a devastation so complete that it couldn’t possibly be interrupted by anything so trivial as applause. But even if the play — in its world preem at the Almeida’s new King’s Cross home — isn’t nearly that hard-hitting, you can’t deny its power to enflame, especially given a predominantly American cast in top form, most notably Paul Rudd.

    While one can imagine a defter staging of an episodic text that cries out for a turntable set, not Giles Cadle’s cleverly panelled all-purpose space, writer-director LaBute demonstrates an ability to cut to the quick that surpasses the thudding ironies of his monologue-driven “bash.” Some may be blown away by “The Shape of Things,” and others (women, I suspect) will loathe it, but the truth is that there hasn’t been so potentially inflammatory an American play since “Oleanna.”

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    As was true of Mamet’s divisive work, which came into its own (in production terms) in London, “The Shape of Things” posits the woman-as-destroyer, but with a difference: In LaBute’s highly loaded landscape, the man scarcely gets to fight back. Initially, Rudd’s Adam doesn’t see any need to. An English student and gallery attendant at an unnamed Midwestern university, Adam has fallen so hard for art grad student Evelyn (Rachel Weisz) that he will do anything for her — shed his corduroy jacket, have a nose job, stop biting his nails, let their sex be filmed. Away from the bedroom, he even agrees to forsake his affianced friends, Phillip (Frederick Weller) and Jenny (Gretchen Mol), whose relationship is undergoing its own seismic shift.

    For a while, “The Shape of Things” (the title itself is sexually charged, with “thing” early on a synonym for penis) has a high old time charting the makeovers undergone in the name of love. But you don’t need the high-octane scene-change music of the Smashing Pumpkins — so loud, apparently, that on opening night it drove the Pinters out of the auditorium before the play had even begun — to anticipate that all will not be right with Adam’s transformation from a likable fellow feeling his cautious way in life to a newly minted hunk who ends up in the clinch with Jenny — as Phillip, her imminent hubby, finds out. Cued by a passing reference to Henry Higgins, LaBute is here refashioning “Pygmalion” to far more vengeful ends, with Evelyn a none-too-fair lady comprised of equal parts cunning and guile and total self-invention. Not for nothing does this devouring heroine’s initials make up the acronym EAT.

    Shaw isn’t the only template in a script that reaches much further back: Adam and Evelyn are an Adam and Eve for our time, a fact italicized by the serpentlike Evelyn taking a portentous chomp out of an apple. And the fairer sex won’t be alone in resisting the demonizing of a character (think Brit-art favorite Tracey Emin crossed with Alice, the troubled lap dancer, in “Closer”) capable of holding her own against the male miscreants of LaBute’s screenplays for “In the Company of Men” and “Your Friends and Neighbors.” The more beautiful the person, the baser their actions, or to cite an exchange from the play: “You’re sick.” “But I’m nice-looking, which makes up for a lot.”

    To say much else about the plot would be to give away a surprise conclusion that doesn’t so much collapse the fourth wall (though it does that, too) as it manages to rupture both the play’s couplings: Evelyn possesses many a bodily scar but knows how to inflict the mental ones that wound most, and one only wishes that LaBute didn’t feel compelled twice to invoke the Holocaust in the most hollow, gratuitous way. At such moments, “The Shape of Things” succumbs to the very “false art” that Evelyn is at pains to deride, while the narrative contains perhaps several bluffs and counterbluffs more than it can comfortably handle.

    It may say something about the limitations of the character driving the play (and of an initially teary-eyed Weisz’s overeager American accent) that LaBute’s best faceoffs don’t involve Evelyn. One has to make a sizable leap of faith, for instance, to square the first scene with the second, especially given an anarchic move on Evelyn’s part that, presumably, would forever scare away (or at least appall) the nebbishy Adam. But Rudd, playing someone who says “goddang it” one minute and can quote Wilde the next, gives a stirring account of an innocent keen for experience at whatever the cost, and he’s beautifully matched with Weller’s likably jockish Phillip and Mol’s touchingly lovestruck Jenny. Collectively, they deserve the bow of which the staging deprives them, presumably because damage this hurtful leaves no room for cheers.

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