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By Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat
Directed by Amy Heckerling
Columbia Pictures 07/00 DVD/VHS Feature Film
PG-13 - sexual situations, drug use, mild profanity
Hindus have a wonderful mantra: "God dwells in you as you." The distinctive core of our being is one of a kind. But knowing and protecting it is one of the real challenges of the spiritual life. Usually the Godseed within is assaulted mercilessly in high school and battered again in college. Whether or not to accept the low standards, bad taste, incivility, and aggression of the in-crowd is a rite of passage for every stout soul.
Paul (Jason Biggs) hails from a small town that hosts a party for him when he wins a full scholarship to a New York City university. He's the first one in his family to attend college. His earnest father (Dan Aykroyd) gives him some advice on how to be popular be interesting by being interested; listen carefully to what others say; be truly present and others will want to be in your presence.
This counsel doesn't work at all for the friendly but dorky looking Paul when he encounters his three rich, hip, and party-obsessed roommates Adam (Zak Orth), Chris (Thomas Sadoski), and Noah (Jimmi Simpson). They enjoy ridiculing him. Eventually Paul is forced to take a room outside the dorm; he is housed in a veterinary clinic where he does part-time work.
This diligent student is frustrated further when he develops a crush on Dora Diamond (Mena Suvari), a perky young woman who is in the midst of an affair with Edward Alcott (Gregg Kinnear), a very clever and self-absorbed English professor. Paul comes to her rescue when she is fed a date-rape pill at a party by one of his former roommates. Unaware of her own inner worth, Dora is also manipulated and abused by her lover.
Amy Heckerling (Clueless) has written and directed this comedy that vividly depicts the difficulties principled persons must face in our uncivil society where cruel egotists are seen as "winners" and nice people are called "losers." Luckily Paul has the patience and the moral fiber to handle the assaults to his personhood launched by his roommates and the nasty English professor. He may look like a country bumpkin and act in socially awkward ways, but at least he's true to himself.
The film ends on an upbeat note and a hint that good people can indeed find each other in today's society. Which is why it's unfortunate that Heckerling decided to add a cinematic afterword that shames and humiliates Paul's three roommates and the English professor. When we're rooting for more humane relationships, we really don't need to be asked to revel in cruel payback.
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by Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat
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