The first thing I have to say is, thank goodness Ryan Phillippe is 4.5 million times better looking than John Malkovich. In this blatant remake of Dangerous Liaisons (not a modern adaptation of Les Liaisons Dangereuses but a modern remake of the delicious Glenn Close/John Malkovich movie), Ryan apes the chilling smoothness of Malkovich with the added bonus of being painfully beautiful. He is also utterly empty, and waxed within an inch of his life. I’ve had my share of smooth operators work on me in my day, some of which as coldly calculating as the original Valmont, but none with such motiveless high school wickedness as our boy Ryan. Even his smiles look artificial. As his wicked stepsister (their prep school’s Marquise de Merteuil), Buffy the Vampire Slayer, er, I mean Sarah Michelle Gellar, is a weird combination of babyfaced popular girl and sociopathic nympho. Her voice is so girlie, so babyfat cheeked and curly somehow, you can’t believe her suave sexual predatory instincts. To quote the Heathers wannabe Jawbreaker, “She’s so evil, and she’s only in high school!” And she looks it, too. Check out her wardrobe! Junior League tramp all the way.
Selma Blair is another young fresh faced star of this romp, (she’s the Uma Thurman/Cecile de Volanges character) but she is extra interesting and funny because, unlike everyone else in the movie, she acts and shows character development and even a little of her own age. “She’ll be my greatest victory,” Phillippe drones about his latest conquest, the Seventeen Magazine virgin played by Reese Witherspoon. Reese is no Michelle Pfeiffer, you know? I would have to say every freaking time I saw the preview (count how many movies I have seen this year, subtract Life is Beautiful, and you’ll get the idea how many times I endured the promotion of Cruel Intentions!) “Your greatest victory since you lost your virginity last year?!” We all promised to see this movie together, we had endured and quoted the silly lines from the preview so many times.
I was relieved that the majority of these goofy lines that made it seem like it was supposed to be this sex thriller were slid in out of order – they are more amusing in context. And like most of the New Teen Movie trend, the preview needs an 80’s song remake to sell the movie to the kids – and to the demographic of the Last Teen Movie trend – me and my friends. Thank goodness we Xers haven’t figured out that we are the establishment yet!
Everyone is acting so coool, like high schoolers do, and sexually confident, but basically Intentions takes the incredible brilliance of de Laclos’s 1782 novel and makes it…a teeny bit dull. The story modernizes so well, I was hoping for something really incisive. With the glut of teen movies that are actually remakes of pre-technological classics, it is the most translatable for teen culture. Oh, sure, the freaky faced Witherspoon (now engaged to and carrying the baby of Phillippe!) has a blouse full of goodies (“Free us!” – thanks MMR!), but you see nothing. Sure, Buffy lays one on a girl, dresses around her decolletage, and wiggles in her step brother’s lap, but for a movie that is almost exclusively about sex and the notions of the repercussions of sex, it was way less steamy than your average Red Shoe Diaries. Even less than a mild Red Shoe Diaries. It still seems ludicrous for these kids (god, listen to me, I *am* the establishment!) to cross their long aerobicized legs and toy with each other like embittered veterans, but I guess that’s the comedy part. It’s beyond my control.
To everyone’s credit, they all look like they are having fun making the movie. The sets are almost as sumptuous as its Oscar-winning counterpart, and Phillippe is actually pretty funny. Swoosie Kurtz, a veteran of the 1988 adaptation, has an amusing bit part as Phillippe’s shrink. An unfortunate production choice of having a running soundtrack under regular dialogue gives the whole movie a comedic feel – kind of weird. Not just the amusing banter right before a punchline or under a funny monologue, but all the time. It reminded me of the music in Heathers, but not as moody. Naturally they all attend Catholic school, a traditional hotbed of sinful rebellious instincts. Almost no “adults” are present, adding to the surreality of these kids as adults – all dressed up like Holly Golightly and working the business of popularity like it was a movie deal. Some of the original plot elements (a swordfight, public humiliation and small-pox) don’t translate to super-chichi Manhattan of 1999, but the screenwriters did a pretty good job working in new resolutions. Oh my god, and that car! Dear Movie Reviewer Fairy – I would LOVE a ’56 Jaguar Roadster in black, I don’t care how crappy it will run. Ooh, can I have that house instead? How about another shot of Ryan Phillippe’s butt?
MPAA Rating R-sexual situations w/teens, language and drugs
Release date 3/17/99
Time in minutes 97
Director Roger Kumble
Studio Columbia Tristar