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   CRUEL INTENTIONS (1999) 

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CAST
Sarah Michelle Geller
Ryan Phillippe
Reese Witherspoon
Selma Blair
Sean Patrick Thomas
Joshua Jackson
Louise Fletcher
Christine Baranski

DIRECTED BY
Roger Kumble

PURCHASE


DVD



DVD




Time: 90 mins.
Rating: R
Genre: Drama/Romance


I have to admit that my only experiences watching Sarah Michelle Gellar act have been in horror movies where she dies (SCREAM 2 and I KNOW WHAT YOU DID LAST SUMMER.) I now know why those movies were so pleasurable in comparison to CRUEL INTENTIONS. She may get rave reviews as Buffy the Vampire Slayer, but whoever thought she could pull off the malicious, sexy and complicated role of Kathryn Mertuil-Valmont should be shot. This film had a chance of being somewhat enjoyable – a bit over-the-top and silly at points to be sure – but she completely ruins it. This was not a job for a pissed off debutante. She looked, sounded and acted ridiculous. A dangerous, manipulative, intelligent sexual predator she is not. She's at best, bitchy, and she wears her clothes well.

I firmly believe she will not be a major star in five years. That said, the rest of the cast, especially Phillippe – who I want to hate but who keeps impressing me – does a fine job with the material. The exception is Selma Blair who was every bit if not more annoying to watch than Gellar. Someone needs to explain to the director the difference between innocent and awkward and just plain stupid, clumsy and irritating. She was out of her league in every sense of the word. This may not be classic literature, but it is adapted from it so it shouldn't be treated like a sitcom. Have some class and dignity, even when you're being silly.

Now that I've gotten all of that off my chest, I will explain the story to those who haven't seen either of the original period films, DANGEROUS LIAISONS (a brilliant piece of work) and VALMONT (not as good but still ten times better than this). Basically, Kathryn (Gellar) and Sebastian (Phillippe) are two spoiled rich kids who use their good looks and influence to wreak havoc in the lives of others. To them, it's just a game. Though on the surface Kathryn is a saint with an unblemished reputation, in fact, she's a cold, hard bitch with more conquests than imperial Rome. Sebastian is her step-brother and occasional conspirator. Sebastian plays along because Kathryn holds the key to the one thing he can't have – sex with her.


"I'm sick of sleeping with these insipid Manhattan debutantes. Nothing shocks them anymore."

Kathryn, not used to being dumped, requests Sebastian's help in corrupting the young and vapid choice of her ex-boyfriend. Her ex is expecting a young, virginal girl. What Kathryn's going to deliver to him is a two-bit whore. Sebastian is originally uninterested. He already has his next conquest in mind – the beautiful daughter of the new headmaster who's vowed to be a virgin until she gets married. Bedding Annette (Witherspoon) will be his greatest triumph. Kathryn laughs at him. He doesn't have a chance with her. Angry that she doubts his obvious charm and skill, they make a wager. If he beds Annette, he finally gets what he's been waiting years to experience – a night with Kathryn. If she wins and he fails to seduce Annette into his bed, Kathryn wins his classic Jaguar, a prized possession. It's a bet that Sebastian will come to deeply regret.

He believes it should take no time at all to convince this uptight, virgin from Kansas out of her panties. However, she surprises him by being forthright and honest with him. She's got his number and is not about to become just another notch on his belt. They will be nothing more than friends. With every encounter she gets more and more under his skin as he realizes that his charms have no affect on her. Running out of his usual bag of tricks, he is forced to be himself, a device unused up to this point. No one has ever loved him like that before and he finds himself unable to finish what he started, to ruin the purity of their relationship and the trust of the woman he has come to love. When he finally does have sex with Annette, it's the first time he actually makes love.

When Kathryn discovers his feelings, she mocks him for falling in love. It will just ruin his reputation for everyone to learn that the once vital casanova is now just a love-sick schoolboy. Unable to stand Kathryn's mockery or to break the hold she has over him, Sebastian ends his relationship with Annette, breaking her heart and destroying the trust she had in him. It's not until he returns to Kathryn with news of this latest "triumph" that he fully understands that he was the fool in this scenario. Not for loving Annette, but for trusting Kathryn. It was her plan all along to destroy him and he fell for it, hook, line and sinker. Needless to say, it doesn't end happily, but Kathryn eventually gets what she deserves. There are several other subplots and characters, but in the end the film revolves around the main love triangle. It's no wonder why actors want to play these roles. Most people never get to be this mean-spirited in real life.

That said, Ryan Phillippe is wonderful in this movie. Yes, it's somewhat unbelievable and strange seeing people this young being this cruel. However, he is so charming, seductive and mischeivous I have a feeling I would've given in to him as well. He's like a miniature John Malkovich, who played the same role in DANGEROUS LIAISONS to a tee. I have a feeling we're going to be seeing a lot more of Mr. Phillippe and I for one am going to be watching. I also liked Reese Witherspoon's performance. She was intelligent, honest, silly and irresistable. It's no wonder he fell for her offscreen as well as on. When they're onscreen together the movie is actually believable and interesting, when they're not...ugh. The soundtrack is great and the art direction is fabulous. I wish I lived in this movie. The wardrobe looked great on Phillippe and Witherspoon. Where they came up with some of Gellar's garbs is beyond me. As if she weren't silly enough. Do not spend money to see this movie. At best it's a weekend rental. Do yourself a favor and see the "adult" version of the tale with Close, Malkovich and Pfeiffer.



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