Have you ever heard anyone say that the book is always better than the movie? In the case of Cruel Intentions, I’m sure nothing could be more true. And I haven’t even read it.
Based on the 1782 novel, Les Liasons Dangerueses by Pierre Lacios, Cruel Intentions is the fourth, and by far the worst, attempt at screen adaptation. Director Roger Kumble takes this intriguing story of sexual manipulation and war, and tries to modernize it for a ’90’s audience. By casting some of today’s hottest new faces, Kumble attempts to comment on some of the controversial issues facing teens today, issues that were not prevalent in the 1700’s, which takes away from the essence of what the story is really meant to be about.
Sarah Michelle Gellar plays the wicked Kathryn Mertieul. Her pouty lip and pity-seeking attitude are distracting, rather than being characteristic of her strong-willed character. Kathryn is supposed to be a relentless woman set on messing with people’s minds just for the sport of it. Gellar’s portrayal of this complex character evokes more pity than hatred. I’m stuck on the brilliant performance Glenn Close gave in another adaptation, Dangerous Liaisons. Another character that’s difficult to watch is Sebastian, the suave womanizer painfully played by Ryan Phillippe (54). He has the looks, but lacks the skills to pull this one off. Instead of using charm to seduce his prey, his words are monotone and stale. He is ultimately unconvincing in this Romeo-type role.
Cruel Intentions had the makings to be a great commentary on social addictions. Instead, Kumble loses the powerful message through a string of bad choices. I’m sure that with a stronger cast, Cruel Intentions could have at least been somewhat bearable. If you’re not up for reading the book and want to get a true feel of how the story should be transposed to the screen, I suggest skipping Cruel Intentions and heading straight for Dangerous Liaisons.
+ Ashley Adams