An intentionally ridiculous retelling of the story that inspired Dangerous Liaisons (1988), where John Malkovich and Glenn Close played bored socialites who ruin others with feigned love until Malkovich actually falls in love.
Sarah Michelle Gellar in the Glenn Close role: she’s an insincere, manipulative and resentful babe and drug addict who ruins people until she herself is ruined.
Ryan Phillipe channeling John Malkovich for his performance, including how he stands and speaks – just without any of Malkovich’s scary charm.
Two lusted-after female characters – one confusedly played by Selma Blair, the other better-played by Reese Witherspoon of Pleasantville – who are kind of buffeted by the needs of the script instead of being well-rounded characters. They get hurt, manipulated and even thrown bodily about, but in the end we’re not given enough reasons to care about them. Blair is treated the worst, going from virginal to sex-mad just because the script says so.
Essentially, when the most interesting part of a film is the flirtation of a stepbrother and stepsister (Gellar and Phillipe) who clearly are hot for each other, you know you’re dealing with a sick, sick movie. I came out of this story of faked love, racism and other hurtful acts wanting to scrub myself. You won’t come out of Cruel Intentions feeling very good about humanity.
Present-day afterword: Here was a small adventure in writing. That week, I had room for only about a 300-word review (by the way, the year before, I wrote a six-word review). Also, in trying to show the film’s poorly written “progression,” such as it was, of Selma Blair’s character (and I fault the filmmakers, not her; I should’ve been clearer in my review), I struggled with how to phrase it for a family newspaper. I wrote some clearly unusable phrases – kind of like when Douglas Adams created the name Slartibartfast by stringing together several swear words and then fiddling with the syllables – and I still remember one of them:
I wrote that her character was an “enthusiastic penis receptacle.”