Cruel Intentions is one of those films that you’ll like if there is someone in the film you enjoy watching. Else, the film is a somewhat toned down and less enjoyable version of Wild Things. For me, I enjoyed the film only because of Sarah Michelle Gellar. I’m sure that there will be flocks of young women who will enjoy the film immensely because of Ryan Phillippe.
Cruel Intentions is loosely based on “Les Liaisons Dangereuses” by Choderlos de Laclos. The film starts off with an intriguing shot; it’s a helicopter shot aimed directly at the ground, the only things we see are white motion-blurred objects flying by. It took me a few seconds to realize what I was looking at, and when I did, I knew this was foreshadowing for something that was going to happen sometime later in the film.
Sabastian (Ryan Phillippe) is a bored guy, who can bed just about any girl. The only girl he wants to bed, and can’t, is his stepsister Katherine (Sarah Michelle Gellar). These two promiscuous stepsiblings are bored with their sexual conquests; they are just too easy for them. Sex is just a game that these two have mastered it. They turn their attention towards outsiders; they are cruel and know that they can use sex against others. Other people’s misery is their pleasure. In a game, Katherine bets Sabastian that he can’t bed the daughter of the new headmaster of their school. A self-proclaimed virgin-till-she-meets-the-right-guy, Annette (Reese Witherspoon) is the ultimate challenge for Sabastian. If Sabastian is able to sleep with Annette, then he gets the ultimate prize: a night with Katherine. If he can’t, then Katherine gets his prized possession: his sports car.
Cruel Intentions is, by all means, an uneven film. The performances, music, film score, and mood were all uneven. The only thing that is solid is the cinematography by Theo Van de Sande (Blade).
Performance-wise Gellar and Phillippe put in decent, if a bit sterile, performances. Both of them hit their parts right on and are believable as conniving and evil. Selma Blair does not fare as well. Blair’s performance is the sore thumb of the whole film. Her character was just too offbeat and strange, she did not fit into the film and every time she took to the screen it drew me out of the film and into the state of thinking, “Does she think she’s in There’s Something About Mary?” The one performer that was fabulous was Resse Witherspoon.
For the record, no one gets naked in Cruel Intentions (though Phillippe shows off his butt), there are a few erotic scenes, but nothing too racy in the film. Still, this film is not for the younger teenage crowd – which the producers and studio seem to be taking aim at. Cruel Intentions is one of those films that tries hard to entertain and only accomplishes the task halfway. The script and direction by Roger Kumble is mediocre at best. There’s a film that I kept thinking is similar to Cruel Intentions and that film is Wild Things. Wild Things didn’t take itself so seriously, and in the end Wild Things was more enjoyable. Catch Cruel Intentions at a matinee showing, else, wait for video.