Sunday, 20 January 2013

Cruel Intentions (1999)

“You can put it anywhere!”

This is a first; a film which my girlfriend persuaded me to blog in the hope that I‘d slag it off. She hates it. Yes, it’s partly her intense dislike of Sarah Michelle Gellar, but it’s also the slowness, dullness and, yes, poshness of all the characters. This is a modern update of Les Liaisons Dangereuses, and all the rich New York protagonists are quite as obnoxious as any aristocrat from pre-revolutionary France.

There’s an awkward tension pervading the film, in fact; the plot is adapted from a play written in the 1780s, and the intricate structure of the storyline very much feels like it. This fits very awkwardness with the modernity of the setting, the characters and the social mores./It’s well-executed, but Les Liaisons Dangereuses doesn’t fit well with the modern high school movie. The film is not bad, but it’s hard to admire, and easy to mock. I’m reminded of Not Another High School Movie and its piss take of the lesbian kiss scene- a scene which, incidentally, makes both myself and my bisexual girlfriend go “Euuurgh!”.

Sarah Michelle Gellar is good, as always, although one note, as always. She’s a good actress, but not very likeable. Ryan Philippe is… meh. Reese Witherspoon is really rather good, admittedly. But perhaps it’s not the performances; none of the characters are remotely likeable. They’re all arseholes. Kathryn and Sebastian are cruel and arrogant, Cecile is self-centred, while Annette, for all her self-proclaimed “morals”, thinks relationships matter so little that we needn’t bother finding out whether we’re sexually compatible with each other before getting married.

Admittedly, the direction is good. The oddly British indie soundtrack (Placebo during the opening titles, the Verve’s overrated Bittersweet Symphony, and Blur’s Coffee and TV during the lesbian kiss- interesting choice) is ok too. But the whole thing is hard to take seriously, with so many sex scenes which need to be filmed at weird camera angles to avoid showing too much. And this is set in a world of privilege with which it’s hard to identify. Oh, and the late ‘90s were a fashion wasteland, but you knew that.

This isn’t an awful film, but it isn’t essential either. I’m not going to disappoint my girlfriend: Cruel Intentions is kind of meh.

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