[Screen It]


(1999) (Sarah Michelle Gellar, Ryan Phillippe) (R)

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Drama: Two rich and manipulative step-siblings, who lust for one another, enter into a bet regarding whether the brother can deflower a virgin while also helping the sister get revenge on her former beau.
Kathryn Merteuil (SARAH MICHELLE GELLAR) and Sebastian Valmont (RYAN PHILLIPPE) are rich and manipulative step-siblings who've been attracted to each other ever since their parents married. Living in a posh Central Park mansion, the two spend the summer before their senior year at an exclusive academy lusting for one another when not setting their sights on destroying the lives of their unsuspecting victims.

As such, Kathryn is upset that her boyfriend, Court Reynolds, has dumped her for the more innocent Cecile Caldwell (SELMA BLAIR), and wants Sebastian to deflower her to humiliate Court. Sebastian, known for doing just that to many a young woman in the city, casually agrees, but has set his sights on a more lofty and difficult challenge.

It seems that Annette Hargrove (REESE WITHERSPOON), the teenage daughter of their school's new headmaster, has recently written an article about how she plans to remain a virgin until she's married. As confident as he is calculating, Sebastian bets that he can seduce Annette before the start of their senior year and Kathryn agrees to the wager.

With the stakes being that if Sebastian fails, Kathryn gets his vintage sports car, and if he wins, he gets to bed Kathryn, the two begin their manipulative plans that involve gay classmates, Blaine Tuttle (JOSHUA JACKSON) and Greg McConnell (ERIC MABIUS), Cecile's cello instructor, Ronald Clifford (SEAN PATRICK THOMAS) and Cecile's mother, Mrs. Caldwell (CHRISTINE BARANSKI).

With the young and attractive cast members, it's a likely bet that some teens and older preteens might want to see this film.
For strong sexual dialogue and sexual situations involving teens, language and drug use.
  • SARAH MICHELLE GELLAR plays a cocaine snorting, manipulative teen who lusts for her stepbrother, fools around with other guys, cusses some, and sets out to destroy others' lives simply for the fun of it.
  • RYAN PHILLIPPE plays her stepbrother who similarly lusts for her, cusses some, has a well- deserved reputation for bedding many young women (and does so twice here), and wagers a bet that he can do the same to a virgin.
  • REESE WITHERSPOON plays a young woman whose pronouncement that she'll remain a virgin until she's married goes out the window once she's seduced by Sebastian.
  • SELMA BLAIR plays a somewhat clumsy young woman who allows Sebastian to have sex with her.


    OUR TAKE: 3.5 out of 10
    If the thought of "Casablanca" being remade with Freddie Prinze, Jr. and Jennifer Love Hewitt in the lead roles and set during the war in Bosnia doesn't give you a queasy, pounding headache, or if the notion of James Van Der Beek loosely playing Bill Gates in a new version of "Citizen Kane" doesn't have you doubling over in hysterical laughter, then read on brave soul.

    That's because while we intentionally fabricated those scenarios for your reading pleasure/nightmares, the classic story of Choderlos De Laclos' 18th century novel, "Les Liaisons Dangereuses," has been updated to modern times and populated with teenage characters in Columbia Pictures' release of "Cruel Intentions."

    For those who think that novel sounds familiar, that's because in 1988 Stephen Frears adapted it as "Dangerous Liaisons," the three-time Oscar winner starring Glenn Close, John Malkovich, Michelle Pfeiffer and a young Uma Thurman.

    While I suppose everyone has a right (if they pay for the rights) to adapt any story in any manner they chose, the only apparent reason for this campy and trashy piece of entertainment is apparently to cash in on the recent explosion of teen-related, box office success.

    Why else would a group of hot, over twenty actors be cast in teenage parts that call for them neither to behave nor speak like teens? While the fact that the performers, who are too old for their parts, are playing characters too young for their behavior and dialogue is a major stumbling block for the film, it manages to survive if the following conditions are met.

    If one can manage to forget Frears' excellent version of the story (which is quite hard to do considering the obviously inherent similarities) and accept this picture for what it's trying to be (something of a trashy and flippant combination of "Dangerous Liaisons" and "Heathers"), and finally still be in high school (the obvious target audience), then it begins to take on a bit of that guiltily enjoyable camp that certain films can get away with.

    That said, while teens will probably groove on the malicious wickedness that oozes forth for nearly two hours, it's doubtful that most adults -- let alone parents of impressionable children -- will enjoy or appreciate what the film offers.

    Basically following the familiar plot of "Dangerous Liaisons," but reducing the characters' ages, changing some names and locales, and having the manipulative protagonists as contemporary step-siblings, the film delivers the tried and true plot elements related to the old saying, "the best laid plans of mice and men..." Not surprisingly, while the audience will "enjoy" the characters' schemes, they'll also find their eventual comeuppances to their liking.

    As such, first-time writer/director Roger Kumble (who, according to the press kit, "contributed" to the writing for the likes of "Dumb & Dumber" and "Kingpin") delivers a film that's certainly never boring to watch, a fact that isn't hurt by it being accompanied by an attractive and alluring cast. Unfortunately, those good looks don't always translate into good performances, although to be fair, the film's intentional campiness -- at least in its earlier moments -- diffuses some of that criticism. Even so, expect critical reaction to the performances to range all across the board.

    Ryan Phillippe ("54," "Playing By Heart") delivers an interesting, but not completely satisfying and certainly not believable take on the manipulative womanizer. While he's got all of the seductive looks and mannerisms down pat, one can't help but think he's simply doing his best impersonation of John Malkovich's wonderful performance from the earlier film. Clearly not as slimy nor menacing as Malkovich, Phillippe seems to have fun chewing on the scenery, but obviously is of no comparative match to his older and more seasoned counterpart.

    Sarah Michelle Gellar (TV's "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" and the recently released, but quickly vanished "Simply Irresistible") doesn't fare as well, although she clearly puts her earlier soap opera experience to work in portraying her cold, calculating and decidedly bitchy character. Nonetheless, and despite her glaring, vampish qualities, she's terribly miscast and even less believable than Phillippe (and certainly no Glenn Close).

    Reese Witherspoon ("Pleasantville," "Fear"), who's quite easy on the eyes and prone to make many a teenage boy's heart go a flutter (just listen for their reactions to sights of her in tightfitting or revealing clothing), fares better than either of her co-stars, but that's simply because she's the most "normally" drawn character of the bunch. Selma Blair (making her feature film debut) provides some klutz-related humor, but certainly doesn't have the star power that her counterpart -- Uma Thurman -- exuded in that other film.

    With any given release being a crap shot nowadays, this is easily one of those films that some people will love, and others will hate, undoubtably due to the "messing with a classic" factor. As such, it's somewhat difficult to rate. While it's a great deal nastier in tone and spirit than its predecessors, it's also obviously not meant to be taken seriously.

    Thus, it's somewhat reminiscent of last year's similarly campy, trashy and decidedly sexy "Wild Things." Although it's nowhere as wildly entertaining as that film, this one still has enough guilty pleasures to prevent it from getting an awful rating. Of course that doesn't mean it's that good either, and as such, we give "Cruel Intentions" a 3.5 out of 10.

    Here's a quick summary of the content found in this R-rated movie that's obviously aimed at the teenage crowd. The sex/nudity category gets an extreme rating due to continuous and occasionally graphic descriptions of sexual acts, as well as implied, off-camera and on camera encounters, including the pseudo incestuous behavior of the two step-siblings and both homosexual and lesbian related activity.

    Profanity is also extreme with nearly 20 "f" words and an assortment of other words, phrases and religious phrases, and bad attitudes are also extreme as the two main characters set out to humiliate, take advantage of, or destroy the lives of others. We twice see a character snorting cocaine, while some drinking and a little bit of smoking also occurs.

    Beyond that, a brief fistfight and a person's death (from being hit by a car), the rest of the film is relatively void of major objectionable content. Nonetheless, and due to what's present, we encourage you to take a closer look at what's been listed should you be concerned about the film's appropriateness for anyone in your home.

  • Kathryn snorts cocaine from a hollow cross she wears around her neck.
  • In a flashback we see Court drinking from a flask and then passing out from doing so.
  • Blaine appears to be preparing drugs (perhaps pot) while talking to Sebastian.
  • As Cecile finishes her beverage, she tells Sebastian that it doesn't taste like tea, and he says that it's from Long Island (ie. A Long Island Iced Tea).
  • Sebastian and Kathryn have champagne.
  • Kathryn snorts cocaine once again from her hollow cross.
  • Sebastian's lip and head are a little bloody after getting into a fight.
  • Both Kathryn and Sebastian have extreme cases of both as they're rich and spoiled snobs who set out to humiliate or destroy others' lives. As such, Kathryn wants to have Sebastian deflower Cecile who's now seeing her old boyfriend, while Sebastian sets out to deflower a self-proclaimed virgin. Along the way they manipulate many others to attain their goals.
  • After Kathryn tells Cecile's mother about her daughter and the cello instructor, Kathryn says "She's so young" and Mrs. Caldwell says, "He's so black" and then fires him for being black and fooling around with Cecile.
  • A person comes after another person ready to confront/fight them.
  • A person falls into the path of an oncoming car.
  • Shotgun: Used by Sebastian to shoot skeet.
  • Phrases: "Nailed" (sexual), "P*ssy whipped," "Horny," "Blow job," "Schmuck," "Whore," "Moron," "Shut up," "Fag," "Sucks," "Chick," "Bitch" (said and written about women), "Loser," "Blow me," "Fudge packer," 'Douche bag," "Eat me," "Idiot," "Slut," "What's up your ass?" "Chump," "Twits" and "Freak."
  • Some kids may be inspired to attempt to manipulate others (as occurs in the film).
  • Sebastian ignores a parking officer who tells him he can't park his car where he did.
  • Cecile belches after drinking a Long Island Iced Tea.
  • None.
  • One scene has a tiny bit of suspenseful music in it.
  • Although we didn't hear anything (while noting the other content), there's always the possibility that something objectionable was in one or more of the many songs that play throughout the soundtrack.
  • At least 19 "f" words (8 used sexually as are the words "diddling" and "screwing"), 14 "s" words, 2 slang terms for female genitals ("p*ssy"), 1 slang term for male genitals ("d*ck"), 4 asses (1 used with "hole"), 4 hells, 1 crap, 1 S.O.B., and 4 uses of "God," 2 of "Jesus Christ" and 1 use each of "Oh God," "Christ," "Oh my God," "My God" and "Jesus" as exclamations.
  • Sebastian tells a psychiatrist that he can't believe that there was a time in his life when all he could think about was sex.
  • Later, that psychiatrist's daughter cries to her mother that there are pictures of her on the Internet and we briefly see one of them with her sitting nude in a chair with her arms covering her breasts.
  • Seeing Cecile sitting with her legs spread and hearing that she just visited Australia, Sebastian offers a double entendre by saying, "How are things down under?"
  • Kathryn comments that she believes Sebastian's father is "diddling" the maid.
  • Kathryn shows quite a bit of cleavage.
  • In a flashback, we hear Kathryn saying that she went to great efforts to please her old boyfriend, and we then see her appearing from down at his lap as both sit in his convertible (implying oral sex).
  • Trying to get Sebastian to agree to deflower Cecile, Kathryn describes her as having "nice, supple breasts, a nice firm ass..." and says (what sounded like) "unchartered booty" and that he'll "go where no man has gone before."
  • Sebastian admits that "diddling the therapist's daughter was a challenge..." and later says, "Screwing the new headmaster's daughter...will be my greatest victory."
  • After Kathryn seductively spreads her legs (she's clothed) and teases Sebastian, he briefly runs his hands down her chest and grabs her breast.
  • As part of their bet about whether Sebastian can seduce Annette, Kathryn says that if he wins, "I'll give you something you've been obsessing about ever since our parents got married" and seductively lies back on her bed while saying that. He then tells her to be more specific and she replies, "I'll f*ck your brains out" and then tells him, "You can put it anywhere."
  • While following Annette up some stairs, Sebastian stares at her butt.
  • About her proclamation of retaining her virginity, Sebastian asks Annette, "Who are you criticize something you haven't experienced?" He then asks her if she's a lesbian and she says that she isn't. She then says that she's heard that he promises girls the world to get them into bed with him.
  • Sebastian tells Blaine that he "fingered" some guy's girlfriend.
  • Blaine says that Greg (a gay or bi guy who hides that part of his sexuality) likes to tackle tight ends on and off the football field. He then says that Greg has "a mouth like a Hoover" (vacuum cleaner).
  • Greg, trying to act macho in front of other guys, tells a story and says, "So I take my d*ck and shove it right in her face...(and then said)....suck it you dumb bitch."
  • Telling Cecile that most girls learn to kiss and practice on other girls, Kathryn gets Cecile to kiss her, and they then French kiss and Cecile seems to enjoy it and want more (she says that it was "cool"), but Kathryn teasingly stops.
  • Calling her stepbrother on the phone, Kathryn asks him, "Did you f*ck her yet?" and he says that he's working on it.
  • We see Sebastian's bare butt as he prepares to go swimming, and as he turns Annette sees his full frontal nudity (but we don't).
  • Sebastian hears some sexual sounds (someone saying "Oh, baby") and then finds Blaine and Greg in bed together (with both in their underwear), takes a picture to blackmail Greg, and makes a comment about a "fudge packer."
  • Kathryn tells Sebastian that she needs him to speed up Cecile's sexual experience. This happens as she lies on top of him (her back to his front) and as he caresses her body. She then comments that something "makes me so horny" and then runs her hand down to his crotch and says, "Seems like things are looking up for you" after caressing him there (and we see both of their pleasured reactions). She then gets up and says about him completing his task (of seducing Annette), "Until then, down boy" (referring to his unseen erection).
  • After commenting on Sebastian and other guys going around and having sex, Kathryn says about herself, "God forbid that I exude confidence and enjoy sex."
  • As Cecile shows Ronald that she can do a headstand (with her legs completely spread), he stares at her crotch.
  • After Cecile does some comic sexy poses for Sebastian, he tells her that she would be even sexier without any clothes (after unbuttoning her top allowing us to see her in her bra). He then tells her, "I don't want to kiss you here (her mouth), I want to kiss you there (her crotch)." He pulls down her pants (we briefly see her in her underwear) and we then only see her reaction to him performing oral sex on her (she says that it tickles and then suddenly has a pleasured outburst) and the scene ends there.
  • The next day, Sebastian asks "Anyone for tennis?" while suggestively running his hand up and down the racket handle and running his tongue along his lips, all aimed at Cecile who then gets up and runs off.
  • Annette shows some cleavage in her low-cut top.
  • While sitting with a senile, older woman in a nursing home, Sebastian lies and tells her, "We played backgammon three times and then I f*cked your daughter."
  • Cecile tells Kathryn that her brother took advantage of her, causing Kathryn to ask, "He forced intercourse on you?" and then asks if she gave him a "blow job." Cecile then explains that he took down her pants and "starting writing the alphabet, but he wrote it with his tongue." Kathryn then says, "He went down on you" and asks if she liked it. She says that it was weird and icky at first, but then it was okay, and then she started to get hot, was shaking and then "it felt like an explosion -- but a good one." Kathryn then says, "Cecile, you had an orgasm" and then adds that she should think of Sebastian as a tutor, "because practice makes perfect" and then suggests that she sleep with as many guys as possible. Cecile then asks if everybody does it and Kathryn says that they do, but that nobody talks about it.
  • We then see Sebastian and Cecile in bed and she aks him, "Am I supposed to feel this sore?" He responds that after the first time it does, and she then adds that she likes it better on top. When he then goes to take a shower, she asks if he wants a "blow job" and then makes a gesture for that with a hand and mouth movement.
  • After she asks her brother if she can take her new car for a ride, Sebastian says, "Kathryn, the only thing you'll be riding is me."
  • We see Sebastian and Annette making out and she works on undoing his pants and then lies back on a bed (undoing her top but we don't see anything), but he decides that he can't do anything then. Later, Kathryn says, "You're telling me you had a chance to f*ck her and you didn't?"
  • We then see Sebastian and Annette having sex with the camera mainly focusing on just a head and shoulders shot of them that suggests movement, includes heavy breathing, and shows the tops of her breasts.
  • Sebastian returns home and hears sexual sounds coming from Kathryn's room. He then knocks and enters the room to find her in bed and a guy under the bed whom we then see leaving in his underwear. Upon learning that Sebastian won their bet, Kathryn comes on to him, but he says that he's not in the mood, causing her to say, "I want to f*ck" with him replying that he doesn't.
  • Annette shows some cleavage and asks Sebastian (in her room and showing him her bed), "Do you think we can be quiet?" but they don't do anything.
  • Kathryn tells Sebastian "I don't f*ck losers."
  • We see Ronald in bed with Cecile, but don't see them doing anything. Later, when he confronts Sebastian, he says that Kathryn told him that "you f*cked Cecile."
  • Sebastian smokes a few times.
  • We see family and relatives very briefly reacting to a family member's death.
  • People who manipulate others and the attitudes and behavior of those involved in this film and the consequences of their actions.
  • Losing one's virginity and why Annette so "easily" succumbs to Sebastian after her adamant stance.
  • While combing Cecile's hair, Kathryn suddenly yanks it down.
  • Sebastian pushes Cecile off him and onto the floor after they've had sex and he tells her that she's interrupting his "quiet time."
  • Kathryn throws a glass object at Sebastian that shatters upon hitting a door.
  • Annette smacks Sebastian.
  • Ronald pushes Sebastian backwards and then punches him. Sebastian punches him back and the two get into a brief fight.
  • A person is hit by a car and killed.

  • Reviewed March 2, 1999 / Posted March 5, 1999

    Other new and recent reviews include:

    [Copshop] [Cry Macho] [Everybody's Talking About Jamie] [Malignant] [Queenpins]

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