Urban Cinefile
"Once the films are finished, I never see any of them ever again . all I can see is mistakes. I can't bear to look at them."  -Bruce Beresford, Australian director
 The World of Film in Australia - on the Internet Updated Monday, October 23, 2017 

Search SEARCH FOR A REVIEW
Our Review Policy OUR REVIEW POLICY
Printable page PRINTABLE PAGE

Help/Contact

CRUEL INTENTIONS

SYNOPSIS:
On the campus of a private school, Sebastian Valmont (Ryan Phillippe) and his stepsister Kathryn (Sarah Michelle Gellar) two wealthy, manipulative teenagers, see sex merely as a vindictive and amusing game of manipulation. Their latest bet involves seducing the upright headmaster's virgin daughter (Reece Witherspoon), and sets off a web of deceit and double cross.

"Let me declare from the start that I am an ardent fan of the Glenn Close, Michelle Pfeiffer, John Malkovich masterpiece, Dangerous Liaisons, which captured every nuance and subtlety of Choderlos de Laclos' wonderful novel. So it was with interest and curiosity that I went along to check out what imaginative creativity had been concocted to reinvent this tale as a teen flick. I'm sorry to say that although Cruel Intentions has many fine attributes, in the form of slick, polished production values, a valiant effort by the leads and a pacey, toe-tapping music score, there is very little else to recommend it. In the context of this stylised, modern-day version, full of teen speak and sexual innuendo, the basic elements that make up the point of the story, just do not tally, nor do you care for the characters. The eloquent finesse of lines like "Have you succeeded in your task?" and "She will be my greatest conquest" just don't ring true when juxtapositioned with crass four letter words demanding sex. Now, obviously, this is a work that does not mean it to be taken seriously, but is intended to be over the top and tongue in cheek and often played for laughs. And despite this, there are moments that are engaging, and quite entertaining, with Reece Witherspoon appealing as the vulnerable, love struck innocent, who becomes a play thing to the cruel, manipulating Valmont. I suspect Ryan Phillippe's overdone John Malkovich impersonation is the director's idea; sorry Mr Kumble, it just doesn't work. Pity, because Phillippe has great screen presence, and deserves both better material and direction. Sarah Michelle Gellar is effective and does the best she can, although she is totally unbelievable. But don't let me put you off, the audience at the Australian Premiere certainly seemed to enjoy it Ė make your own mind up with intent, cruel or not."
Louise Keller

"Ah, this is the stuff of irresistible cinema, and it's all here: sex, power, and manipulation, mind games, betrayal, revenge. Dangerous Liaisons aplenty, especially given the fact that Cruel Intentions is a sublime contemporary take of that classic tale. Teen movies tend to be derivative and dull, but occasionally a studio comes up with a Scream or a Cruel Intentions, and one feels that at last, with a movie such as this, the teen cinema of Hollywood has finally grown up. What a wonderful way to bring Choderlos de Laclos' classic novel Les Liaisons Dangereuses back to the screen for a contemporary audience. It's an idea that may well have been insufferable, and while purists of the novel (and devotees of Dangerous Liaisons with Glenn Close), may scoff at this retelling of this diabolical tale of lust and power, the teenage audience that will flock to see it, will revel in its dark humour, sexual politics and irrepressible collage of wonderful characters. In a departure from what we've seen of late, Sarah Michelle Gellar, as the heinous sister who does unspeakable things, is a revelation. Sexy, smart, sinister and campy, Gellar is simply superb here, creating one of the most memorable adolescent vixens of recent memory. Ryan Phillippe, often so bland and an odd choice for the seductive Valmont, shows an unexplored depth in this film, chewing up the scenery in a devilishly intoxicating fashion. His is a masterful performance, both chilling and poignant. Reese Witherspoon has less to play with as the virginal object of Valmont's desires, but in a tough role, she is fine. Adding a more screwball element to the film is a hilarious turn by Selma Blair as another pawn in the game of sexual deceit. Production values are exemplary, from some beautiful location cinematography, to an unusually introspective rock soundtrack that enhances the film's tone. Sharply and energetically directed by Roger Kumble, Cruel Intentions is not designed to be taken seriously, and the pay off for the audience is the fun we have watching these characters weave in and out of lust and even love, in a movie that's about the games we play and their unfortunate ramifications. Here is a teen film that doesn't insult its audience. It's a smart, sexy, wicked and deliciously entertaining gem of a film with two of the year's most intoxicating characters. Even the oldies will find plenty to amuse them."
Paul Fischer

"Cruel Intentions is a cruel joke at the expense of the teen market at which it is aimed. It short changes the audience because it takes a well written and complex story, boils it down to simplistic inanities and serves it up as a dish to savour: itís a burnt and blackened offering. It is a cynical film, in that it uses a cheap version of the original to hit its marks, like a bad comic stealing someone elseís gags. Taken out of its context, the story loses most of its context: 17th century French society (any society) had profoundly rigid sexual codes that affected peopleís lives. The protagonists were adults with much to lose. The contemporary university students Ė as in this setting Ė have neither many morals nor anything to lose. The games become simplistic and senselessly vulgar, without any genuine insight or credible drama based on character. They are given dialogue that borrows from the literature of the original to the gutter language of todayís fetid English. At its best, itís a tacky, undergraduate romp; at its worst, itís a whore of film because it tries to imitate something of value with something trashy. But thatís just how I see it. Maybe Iím not in the target market Ė being over 25."
Andrew L. Urban

"Cruel Intentions has so many plot twists and turns that it is easy to feel as manipulated as the film's characters, but for few of the right reasons. Although this film has a distinctly 90's touch - with homosexuals, lesbian references, drug use, you name it - it rarely feels fresh or original. The central romance between Sebastian and Annette is uninspired, with not even one scene portraying their emotions in an insightful or mature manner. The script has its ups and downs; the film's first half is considerably better than its second, or at least a little more intriguing. The acting here does not contribute much to the production. Sarah Michelle Gellar quickly becomes little more than a passing joke - whilst there is nothing particularly wrong with her performance, her dialogue is ridiculously egotistical and cold. Reese Witherspoon, however, is a sensuous and exciting presence. Cruel Intentions is directed and edited with precision, and shifts through its various subplots seamlessly. The filmmakers have produced a sharp and shifty piece, but one that fails to entice audiences or bring them into the picture. It has a lot of bickering, biting and slandering, but little intrigue. Furthermore, squeezing in a happy ending is not just a bad choice - given the subject matter, it's also painfully ironic."
Luke Buckmaster, Teen Critic

Email this article

__________________

CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 1
Unfavourable: 3
Mixed: 0

__________________

TRAILER

SOFCOM MOVIE TIMES

CRUEL INTENTIONS (M15+)
(US)

CAST: Sarah Michelle Gellar, Ryan Phillippe, Reese Witherspoon, Selma Blair, Sean Patrick Thomas

DIRECTOR: Roger Kumble

PRODUCER: Neal H. Moritz

SCRIPT: Roger Kumble (inspired by Choderlos de Laclos' novel Les Liaisons Dangereuses)

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Theo Van de Sande

EDITOR: Jeff Freeman

MUSIC: Ed Shearmur

PRODUCTION DESIGN: Jon Gary Steele

RUNNING TIME: 95 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Col TriStar

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: April 1, 1999

VIDEO RELEASE: Sept 8, 1999

VIDEO DISTRIBUTOR: Columbia TriStar

RRP: $24.95 (Mar 13, 2000)







© Urban Cinefile 1997 - 2017