Tag Archives: Selma Blair

Cruel Intentions – 1999 Movie

21 Oct

This is probably one of the best films I’ve ever seen; but I sometimes wonder what it is about it that appeals so much.

The story – which is a present-day New York remake of “Dangerous Liaisons” – follows two rather elaborate and cruel plots to manipulate and play with the emotions of two unsuspecting victims.  One is a naive young woman – Cecile – who is falsely befriended by Kathryn, whose only desire in posing as her friend is to give her false advice on her love life with the intention of making her the “premier tramp of the Manhattan” (I think it was Manhattan).  The other is Annette – an avowed virgin – who is pursued by Sebastian as she is a great challenge (“She will be my greatest victory”) and because Kathryn bets him that he can’t succeed in getting her into bed.

In short, Kathryn and Sebastian – who are step-siblings – sink to the depths of unpleasantness in their manipulation and game-playing, and beyond simply the above-mentioned too.  And here’s the thing – there is no explanation for their cruelty. Many films may feature characters who lead a life of crime because they’ve never succeeded in life on the straight and narrow, or because they simply come from a deprived background.  Not that I’m excusing any crime but I’m making a comparison, because Kathryn and Sebastian are filthy rich, independently-schooled and good-looking.  They’ve grown up with advantages and they choose to become scum.

And perhaps the appeal of the film is that uniqueness – people who are cruel with no reason other than their own selfish enjoyment and belief in their own entitlement to have their way.  [Rather like the Party in George Orwell’s “Nineteen Eighty Four” a member of whom states that the Party seeks power purely for the sake of power].

In both “Cruel Intentions” and “Nineteen Eighty Four” (OK, so not entirely unique), that excess of inexplicable unpleasantness can appeal BECAUSE IT IS FICTION – and therefore it provides an escape.  It can make you think “OK, so I know I have to put up with [INSERT NAME OF NEMESIS] but at least they’re not as bad as those two characters”.

And then of course there are the come-uppances. I won’t spoil the story for those who haven’t seen it, but Kathryn and Sebastian do get their come-uppances. And although the ending is ludicrously implausible – it has the feeling of a scene in a fairy-tale, something like “The people of the village all turned against the wicked witch and she was banished from the kingdom” – it still really gives a fitting ending to the film!  Maybe it’s the unashamed ludicrousness of it that appeals – as though the writer is saying “This is my idea, so what if you think it’s silly, I’ve made a bloody good film!”

And the very final scene, with Reese Witherspoon driving the open-top Jag, her long blonde hair fluttering in the wind…….  OK, I’ll stop there!