Cruel Intentions

Gruel inventions or The First Days Following The PrePubescent Licking of Pap Lapel When Things Begin to Get Finger-Pluckin' Good might have served as an alternative title to this movie. What ever moved someone to take a perfectly good novel like Les Laisons Dangereuses and turn it into the usual bill of fare found on offer for the post-Porky generation?
Cruel Intentions
photo: Melissa Moseley
© 1999 Columbia Pictures
Let us pause for a very short view of cinematic history. First, there was Vadim's LLD with Gerard Phillipe and Jeanne Moreau, followed by Stephen Frears' DL with two Americans (one sporting a disturbingly American dialect), followed by Forman's V with a closer kinship to the original flavor on screen, and now CI, which plunges the tale to even lower depths undreamt of even by Pierre Laclos. Technically well made, it misses "panache", if you'll excuse my French. Although, on the other hand, it might be worth your qualitative viewing if you felt inclined to pass on the Glenn Close-John Malkovich movie from script adaptation by Christopher Hampton. (In fact, one might almost think Ryan Phillipe -no relation to aforementioned- has either taken voice lessons from Mr. Malkovich or laboriously studied his mannerisms and speech intonations in the role of Valmont by watching the tape repeatedly. Close your eyes and check it out.)

Kathryn Merteuil (Sarah Michelle Gellar) and Sebastian Valmont (Ryan Phillippe) number themselves among the vicious brats of the filthy rich from old money families. They live on New York's Upper East Side across from Central Park and treat the doorman like dirt. Kathryn's pissed off because her old beau, Court Reynolds, has dumped her for the more innocent, none too bright and fairly frumpy Cecile Caldwell (Selma Blaire). Kathryn decides to use her influence and turn her into a tramp, thereby transforming her into the kind of girl that Court would never want to marry. Sebastian, her step- brother, as fate (or scriptwriter) would have it, is the perfect instrument to seduce Cecile since he's been around and seen (and had) most of it; after all, he isn't a teenager anymore. But Seb has his sights set on the more challenging Annette Hargrove (Reese Witherspoon), whose been busy flaunting her lily-white virginity in Seventeen magazine. Enticed as well by the near-impossibility of the conquest, Kathryn wages a night of unbridled pleasure in the saddle with herself if Sebastian is actually able to bed his prey. Sebastian bites. If he loses the bet, he must, in return, hand over his 1956 Jaguar to Kathryn.

The rest mainly follows the original tale, but the twist at the end, which was most likely intended to introduce something new and different to the original, seems to have missed the excruciatingly pertinent and poignant point that the pain and tragedy experienced by the cruel female manipulator was experienced through a severe emotional loss and not goaded on by social ostracism. Here it seems that the loss of her gold card is the worst thing that could happen in her life. So much for pre-millennium morality among the The Big Apple post-pube set.

Decadence can be so boring in the young, if not handled properly.

Someone's been sleeping in my bed, and he's still in the drawer underneath.

Been there, done that.

© 1994-2006 The Green Hartnett