Cruel Intentions, a movie review

by Sam Sloan

Sebastian (Ryan Phillippe) and his stepsister, Kathryn (Sarah Michelle Gellar), are teenage step-brother and sister, whose parents are married to each other, although, we are told, their father is diddling the Vietnamese maid. They are filthy rich and live in a mansion in New York City, while their parents, who are never seen, are elsewhere.
Cruel Intentions (1999)

Sebastian's mission in life is to deflower virgins. He wants a serious challenge, because he is bored with plucking the easy ones. He is not content merely to take a girl's virginity. To complete his mission, he must humiliate her by dumping her the next day. Thus the title: "Cruel Intentions".

His step-sister is equally if not more diabolical. Pretending to be squeaky clean and virtually a virgin, she publicly wears a cross, which has a secret vial of cocaine inside, and plots with her step-brother the deflowering of the various available incoming freshman virgins in their high school.

She says that she does this because every time she goes to bed with a man, he immediately dumps her for a younger girl, an innocent virgin. This is a problem which all women have or at least fear, but it is noteworthy that a beautiful 18-year-old is jealous of the competition from younger more virginal women.
In one of the hottest scenes in the movie, Cecile (Selma Blair) is taught by Kathryn (Sarah Michelle Gellar) how to French kiss. Kathryn is preparing Cecile for the already scheduled seduction by her step-brother, Sebastian. They are sitting on the South East corner of Central Park across from the Plaza Hotel, by the way.

Kathryn therefore wants to get revenge against virgins, by assisting her step-brother in their deflowering and subsequent humiliation.

This theme, in a different context, is in another new movie: "The Rage: Carrie 2". In "The Rage", the high school athletes keep a scorebook where scores are awarded for their conquests. However, things get out of hand when one innocent girl gives her virginity to an athlete and then kills herself the next day when he dumps her.

There seems to be a trend here: In the films of yesteryear, the female lead successfully fended off suitors and almost never went to bed. Early on, you could tell which girl was going to turn out to be the star of the movie, because she was the one who did not do it.

However, in the new movies, every significant female has sex with a man, including even Queen Elizabeth I, the most famous virgin in history, in "Elizabeth".

Of course, in real life, almost all women do have sex with men and almost all women do eventuality give up their virginity to a man who often turns out to be a cad. Probably, there are few women in the world who have never had the experience at least once in their life of giving sex to a man, with high hopes for the future, only never to be contacted by him again. This is why mothers properly advise their daughters to keep their virginity until marriage, even though they did not so themselves. Thus, we can say that the new movies probably more accurately depict real life than the old, in spite of their extreme references to sexuality.

My main complaint with "Cruel Intentions" is that although it is supposed to depict teenage high school sex, all of the actors and actresses are too old, in their early twenties. One supposedly 16-year-old virgin must be at least 22 in real life.

Of course, one reason for this may be fear of the so-called "child pornography laws", even though there is no actual nudity, only simulated nudity, in Cruel Intentions.

My other complaint is the obligatory moral lesson at the end. Of course, this movie about the deflowering of the endless supply of virgins must somehow end. Here it ends with the death of Sebastian, who is hit by a New York City taxi driver (we all do that), followed by the humiliation of his step-sister, who is publicly exposed to the school for what she really is.

When I saw this, I realized that I had seen this movie before. The former name of this movie was "Dangerous Liaisons". The plot is the same. The only difference is that "Dangerous Liaisons" is about the corrupt upper class in 18th Century France, whereas "Cruel Intentions" is about the equally rich but contemporary Americans.

One good thing about sex and about the relations, fears, loves and rivalries between men and women is that, throughout history, they have never changed.

Finally, in one other way I find this movie to be unrealistic. Although the seduction skills of Sebastian are much touted, in reality he is put in slam dunk situations. For example, his supposedly major triumph is the deflowering of a transfer student, Annette (Reese Witherspoon). Yet, he has the perfect set-up. He is lodged with her virtually alone in a huge mansion on Long Island. He has access to her day and night, goes swimming in the pool alone with her, sits on the lawn with her, holds her hand, drives her in his car, and yet it takes him two whole weeks to relieve her of her virginity. If I or just about any non-gay man were put in his situation, her virginity would not survive more than a few hours, or a day or two at the very most.

I drive a taxi in New York City and what I found refreshing about this movie is that I go to all the places and do all the things that these rich kids do, and for free. Like them, I too drive across the toll-free Queensboro Bridge. I too sit on the steps of the Metropolitan Museum of Art or next to a lake in Central Park. Every street, every block and every building in this movie is familiar to me. One of the advantages of New York City is that even the poorest can enjoy the pleasures of the super-rich.

Sam Sloan

ADDENDUM: The opening scene shows a blurred aerial shot of the Calvary Cemetery and then pans to Sebastian driving his 1956 Jaguar Roadster on the Brooklyn Queens Expressway (the "BQE"). I do not understand the purpose of this blurred cemetery scene.

Sebastian's father is married to Kathryn's mother. In one of the first lines in the movie, Kathryn complains that her mother believes that "your impotent, alcoholic, drug addicted father is diddling the maid" while the couple are vacationing in Bali, Indonesia.

Kathryn (Sarah Michelle Gellar better known as "Buffy, the Vampire Slayer") complains that every time she goes to bed with a man, he dumps her for "some innocent twit", who, in this case, turns out to be Cecile (Selma Blair).

Later, Cecile and Kathryn are sitting in Central Park South and Kathryn, while combing Cecile's hair, asks how Cecile is doing with her prospective boyfriend. Cecile says that her boyfriend told her that he had met a bulimic head case over Fourth of July Weekend, which he had immediately dumped.

With that, Kathryn jerks Cecile's hair, pretending it to be an accident. Cecile does not realize that the "bulimic head case" is none other than Kathryn herself.

What follows is one of the hottest scenes in the movie, where Kathryn teaches Cecile how to French kiss, with lesbian overtones, especially since Cecile wants to kiss more once she is finally convinced and gets into it.

Upon seeing the movie a second time, I realized that it is only because of Cecile that the plot moves. Although Selma Blair is the only non-beautiful girl in the movie, without her fine acting performance, there would be no movie. Cecile gets thrown around a lot. After she gives her virginity to Sebastian, she mounts him expecting to get it again, failing to realize that once he has her virginity, his mission is accomplished and he has no further use for her. Sebastian throws her off the bed. She gets thrown to the floor by somebody else later in the movie as well. Undaunted, she gets up again.

Tara Reid briefly appears as Marci Greenbaum, the daughter of Sebastian's therapist, Dr. Greenbaum. In order to get back at his therapist, who is over charging him, Sebastian has seduced the therapist's daughter, taken nude photos of her, and posted them on the Internet with a repeating WAV file which says, "You are a slut. You are a slut."

No sooner does he leave the therapist's office than he meets Clorissa (Ginger Williams) and it is obvious that he promptly gets her into bed as well.

One thing which I find annoying about this movie is that it is more of a remark of "Dangerous Liaisons" than I realized at first. Even the names are the same. For example, Sarah Michelle Gellar, plays Kathryn Merteuil, whereas, in Dangerous Liaisons, Glenn Close plays Marquise De Merteuil. Similarly, Valmont is Valmont, Cecile is Cecile and so on.

This would not be a problem except that often when the characters do things which Manhattan teenagers would be unlikely to do, it turns out that the characters are merely imitating the actions and even the facial gestures of the characters in Dangerous Liaisons, right down to Ryan Phillippe imitating the curled upper lip of John Malkovich.

Although Kathryn claims at one point that they are Eastsiders, actually they live on the West Side.

Annette Hargrove lives at 75 Central Park West at 67th Street, opposite Tavern on the Green. In one of the final scenes of the movie, they run into the 67th Street entrance to the Central Park Drive, where Sebastian is hit by a taxi and killed. Sebastian and Kathryn live at 2 East 79th Street, opposite the Metropolitan Museum. It the almost opening scene, Sebastian drives west on 79th Street, makes an illegal u-turn and parks his car in a no parking zone (which shows how rich and disrespectful he is).

Thanks to the person who sent me an e-mail providing me with the location of the building. I drove up and down all the avenues of New York City looking for this building, without success. None of the major avenues in Manhattan are two way, except for Park Avenue, which has islands in the middle, and York Avenue and West End Avenue. The building at 2 East 79th Street is the headquarters of the Ukrainian Institute of America. A passenger in my taxi informs me that motion picture crews are often there making movies.

I have seen about 17 movie reviews of "Cruel Intentions" and it seems that they all just took the movie promo and modified it slightly. For example, they all say that the subjects of the movie live on the East Side. The way you can tell differently is that Central Park West is a two way street, and the only parking is on the right side going downtown. On the other hand, Fifth Avenue, which is Central Park East, is a one way street going downtown, and the only parking is on the left hand side.

Annette lives near Tavern on the Green on Central Park West. I have not been able to determine the exact building where Kathryn and Sebastian live.

To those of you who are not familiar with New York City, the East Side is where the super-rich people live, so that explains why Kathryn wants to say that she is an East-Sider, even though in reality she lives on the West Side.

Eastsiders and Westsiders have since time immemorial been competing, claiming that the people who live on their side are better or different from the people on the other side. When I used to live on the West Side, we liked to think that over on the East Side they have more money, but here on the West Side, we have better sex.

Sam Sloan

Here is: Queen Anne's Dangerous Liaison's Page, which has photos from Cruel Intentions.

Here are some movie scripts, of similar ilk, which Sam Sloan wrote, which I believe should be made into films:

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