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Surprisingly Successful

 


Teenified and brought into the Nineties, Roger Kumble's Cruel Intentions presents a surprisingly successful and breathtakingly beautiful spin on the amorality, lust, evilness and greed of Les Liaisons Dangereuses

Cruel Intentions:
Fab Abs and Slutwear

Okay, men, sit in a circle around me and I'll tell you a story. A story about sex...

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Sarah Michelle Gellar and Ryan Phillippe play step-siblings Kathryn and Sebastian. The two co-habit a palatial Manhattan apartment with little parental supervision. They've harbored more than brother/sister feelings for some time and apparently have slept with everyone except one another.  

To rectify that situation, Kathryn puts a plan into motion. If Sebastian can deflower their school's new headmaster's daughter, Annette, (Reese Witherspoon) in addition to seducing Kathryn's ex-boyfriend's new girlfriend, Cecile (Selma Blair), Kathryn will finally make herself available to Sebastian, no holds barred. But if Sebastian loses, he must turn over his vintage Jaguar, his most prized possession. 

Cecile proves to be no match for Sebastian, but Annette poses a bigger challenge. Annette intends to save herself for marriage and has written a magazine article urging other girls to do the same. As a result, Sebastian can't simply turn on the charm. He must get to know Annette, and in doing so, falls in love for the first time. Therein lies the rub. 

All of the young actors acquit themselves nicely doing some pretty terrible things. Gellar, an Emmy winner for her work on All My Children, has a lot of fun strutting her sexual stuff. Phillippe, much improved since 54, turns out to be a real winner when he turns on the charm. 

Witherspoon, so effective in Pleasantville, continues to shine. More than just a pretty face, she brings a sense of intelligence to every role she undertakes. She and Phillippe, a couple off-screen, manage to bring their chemistry to life on camera, too.  

Blair also deserves praise for her convincing portrait of the naive Cecile. Surprisingly, it's veteran actresses Swoosie Kurtz and Christine Baranski, Sebastian's psychiatrist and Cecile's mother, respectively, who fail to rise above their cartoonish characters. 

Cruel Intentions won't make you forget about the wonderful, brilliant work of Dangerous Liaisons' John Malkovich, Glenn Close or Michelle Pfeiffer. But it succeeds on its own level and serves as a great intro to the classics. 

Joan Fuchsman

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