the fresh films reviews

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Cruel Intentions (1999)

Roger Kumble
Cruel Intentions
95 minutes
Neal H. Moritz
Screenwriter (based on "Les Liasons Dangereuse" by Choderlos de Laclos):
Roger Kumble

Cast includes:

Kathryn Merteuil Sarah Michelle Gellar
Sebastian Valmont Ryan Phillippe
Annette Hargrove Reese Witherspoon
Cecile Caldwell Selma Blair
Helen Rosemond Louise Fletcher
Blaine Tuttle Joshua Jackson
Greg McConnell Eric Mabius
Ronald Clifford Sean Patrick Thomas
Dr. Greenbaum Swoosie Kurtz
Bunny Caldwell Christine Baranski
Marci Greenbaum Tara Reid



The intentions were arguably more selfish than cruel, but who cares about intentions when the end result is as seductive and sexy as this clever, youth-celebratory remake of Dangerous Liaisons. Sarah Michelle Gellar makes up for Glenn Close's iciness, and matches her eroticism with seductive delicacy. And while Ryan Phillippe never comes close to John Malkovich's treacherousness as Vicomte de Valmont, he's got the confidence and attitude to be a believable seductor of Reese Witherspoon, making that an arguably more dynamic relationship than Malkovich/Pfeiffer. First-time writer/director Roger Kumble's work resembles what Baz Luhrmann did with Romeo + Juliet (1996) in many ways, even if the modernization of Cruel Intentions is far less about stylistics. Kumble's real genius here is how he manages to capture the zeitgeist of late 1990s youth culture while at the same time retaining the meticulousness and patrician spirit of the original story, something which could (or even should) have come off as ridiculous when the setting is late 1990s New York. When it works as well and effortlessly as it does, it's because of the strong focus on basic human needs, virtues and vices. Anything else that separate the characters in Cruel Intentions from those in the Stephen Frears' original are just various social constructions. And let's not forget the soundtrack, which is arguably the best movie soundtrack of the 1990s.

Re-reviewed: Copyright 16.11.2019 Fredrik Gunerius Fevang
Original review: Copyright 31.03.2000 Fredrik Gunerius Fevang