Saturday, October 11, 2014

Cruel Intentions (1999)

Cruel IntentionsThis is a Romantic Comedy of the very dark variety. Sarah Michelle Gellar plays one of the most wicked femme fatales (Kathryn) you will ever encounter on-screen. Reese Witherspoon portrays the typical all-American, virtuous midwestern girl (Annette). In between is a womanizer, Sebastian, played by Ryan Phillippe.

All of the characters in the movie are fabulously wealthy, but more than a few are deficient when it comes to matters of the heart. People who enjoy eye candy will enjoy some of the sets of this movie particularly the lavish indoor swimming pool @ the cottage.

Sebastian and Kathryn make a bet: can the suave playboy score on Annette? This, along with a web of insidious sub-plots form the core of the movie's plot. In each and every case, Kathryn and Sebastion outwit everyone else in the film in order to manipulate circumstances into their favor. Occasionally, they even dupe each other.

Over the course of the film, however, Sebastian's character begins to change, albeit slightly. Meanwhile, Kathryn remains the cold-hearted and sadistic wench she always was. It is a credit to the acting ability of Phillippe that the change in character becomes apparent and we're actually compelled to care for him by the end of the film.

To answer the $60,000 question on whether a sweet innocent girl can have a significant impact on a life-long playboy, watch the film. However, be prepared for one of the darkest comedies you will ever see. It's downright cruel intentionally so.

Cruel Intentions is certainly not the usual bubblegum teenybopper movie--a fair warning: unless they are extremely open-minded and relaxed about sex, language, etc., don't rent this with your parents; whether they enjoy it or not, it will not be a comfortable experience for you. But aside from that, this is a very entertaining movie. Sarah Michelle Gellar expands her range playing a bitchy sort of anti-Buffy. Ryan Phillipe's acting style, sometimes called soulless and cold, fits his (originally) heartless character perfectly, and he has good chemistry with Reese Witherspoon (small wonder, since they are now married), who does very well in the role of the proud virgin. Selma Blair is hilariously naive and ridiculous, and Joshua Jackson, in a rather brief role, steals the few scenes he's in. If you're looking for something in the teen genre but not so fluffy as the usual crop, and if you're not easily offended, check this movie out. The only reason I gave it less than 5 stars (I'd give it a 4.5 rather than a 4) is Sebastian's (Phillipe's) transformation from lascivious jerk to tender loverboy is a bit too sudden--the metamorphosis would have been more believable if it had been more gradual, but this is a minor point and doesn't really hurt the film in any way.

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It's probably better if you haven't seen Stephen Frears's Dangerous Liaisons (1989), starring Glenn Close, John Malkovich and Michelle Pfeiffer, or Milos Forman's Valmont (1988) with Annette Bening, Colin Firth and Meg Tilly. If you have, Roger Kumble's Cruel Intentions (1999), starring Sarah Michelle Gellar, Ryan Phillippe, and Reese Witherspoon, which is also based on the novel by the Frenchman Choderlos de Laclos, will seem to lack finesse. Kumble wrote his own screenplay as a kind of Les Liaisons Dangereuses in modern dress, whereas Frears and Forman relied more heavily upon the stage play by Christopher Hampton, depicting the aristocracy of 18th century France. While the two earlier movies sparkle with wit, insight and a cynicism to chill the fondest heart, Kumble's venture features a more prosaic brand of sexual humor adorned agreeably with young, nubile bodies.

But there is no need to make odious comparisons. Cruel Intentions can stand on its own, and there is plenty to admire, especially Gellar in a role to which she is perfectly suited, and Witherspoon as well. Phillippe is also good, especially when he's being funny, although his unconscious imitation of John Malkovich was a bit obsequious. He delivered some of his lines with the same deadpan expression and intonation. But being as pretty as he is, Phillippe's character is more like Colin Firth's. Selma Blair's narrow-eyed and dotty Cecile was pretty, sexy, and funnier than either Uma Thurman or Fairuza Balk, who played similar roles in the above mentioned movies, respectively.

The scene with the shrink to begin was very agreeable and should have been followed up somehow. We never see Sebastian quite so diabolical later on. Too bad. And seeing a little more of Swoosie Kurtz who played the self-centered, phony and hypocritical Dr. Regina Greenbaum would have enhanced the film.

The idea of making Sebastian and Kathryn step siblings was amusing and spicy, and the inclusion of a raunchy gay footballer was appropriate. Using a black guy as Cecile's harp teacher was kinky good. And being rather up-front about sex throughout without being overly juvenile was refreshing. The business with Sebastian Valmont's diary of conquests worked well both psychologically and as a plot device.

The main failing with Kumble's movie, aside from the general superficiality, was that Sebastian's "conquest" of Annette was a little too easy, especially with the goody-goody build-up she had been given. Consequently, her falling in love was more like a stumble. There was some physical passion, but nothing like the full-blown emotional passion required. Also I think the ending needed a little work. It seemed that a committee divined it, part of them wanting a "happy" love ending for Reese and Ryan, and the other half wanting to stay somewhat true to the spirit of the original, and so they came to a compromise, as committees will, and we got mishmash.

Incidentally, there is yet a fourth movie version of this tale, Dangerous Liaisons (1960), from French director Roger Vadim. I am looking forward to seeing it, if I can find a copy.

Read Best Reviews of Cruel Intentions (1999) Here

Sarah Michelle Gellar playing the bad guy.....yummy. So used to her as the heroin and now to see her portray a sizzling and seductive character. In my eyes, she can do no wrong. And now, this tantalizing twisted flick hits the high-def arena, I jumped to see Gellar in all her glory. Sony's recent blu-ray releases are blessed with all the bells and whistles and spares no expense in providing them on dual-layer disks. The picture looks fabulous and included an uncompressed 5.1 PCM track to my listening pleasure. All I can say is, sit back and enjoy the ride.

Want Cruel Intentions (1999) Discount?

Cruel Intentions is a movie you have to see to believe. Sarah Michelle Gellar has never been more bitchy and Reese Witherspoon has never been more pure. Both of these beauties bring strength and humor to their roles and Ryan Philippe became a heartthrob after this movie was released, although he doesn't quite have much range as an actor then. This film is all about playing wicked games on the innocent which is Witherspoon's character, secrets come out and vengence is seeked. This film is sorta campy but very enjoyable. Can you say guilty pleasure? This is a must-see. Enjoy!

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