Cruel Intentions

A slick and rancid update of Les Liaisons Dangereuses, not nearly trashy enough to be more than mildly amusing. This came out back when Sarah Michelle Gellar could still be billed above Reese Witherspoon; it made a lot of money. The scheming manipulators are now moneyed teenagers: step-siblings Gellar and Ryan Phillippe wager on whether he can sleep with devout virgin Witherspoon. Along the way, others (like Selma Blair as an awkward girl and Sean Patrick Thomas as the music teacher she has a crush on) get hurt and corrupted too. Some nasty bits of dialogue are hampered by Phillippe’s and especially Gellar’s self-conscious “look how nasty I can be” line readings. Gellar is a decent actress who’s good at toughness, vulnerability and sarcasm as seen on Buffy; she’s just miscast here — the performance is a novelty. The movie is perhaps best known for the kissing scene between Gellar and Blair, which won an MTV Movie Award for Best Kiss. Phillippe and Witherspoon later married (and divorced); writer-director Roger Kumble tried to work this material into a TV series (Manchester Prep), which was rejected, so he turned the pilot into a “sequel.” Kumble also directed The Sweetest Thing, also with Selma Blair.

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