Release Date: March 05, 1999
Runtime: 97 minutes
Distributor: Columbia Pictures
Director: Roger Kumble
Producer: Neal H. Moritz
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The plot remains the same, two bored rich step-siblings try to one up each other with sexual conquests. Contemporized and set in Manhattan's upper-crust, nary a parent is around when teenager Sebastian (Ryan Phillippe) makes a bet with his stepsister Kathryn (Sarah Michelle Gellar). At the start of summer, he states that he can deflower the headmaster's daughter, Annette Hargrove (Reese Witherspoon), by summer's end. (He picks Annette because recently published an article in 17 Magazine touting her reasons to remain a virgin until marriage.) Kathryn doesn't think even the suave lover Sebastian can perform this feat. If he can, Kathryn agrees that Sebastian can have his way with her, sexually (something he has wanted since they first met). If he cannot, Sebastian must give up his 1956 Jaguar and suffer the shame of defeat.
What follows is a series of lies, backstabbing, manipulation, incidental sexual liaisons with the naïve Cecile Caldwell (Selma Blair), and an unexpected feeling of respect and love. Also included are extensive sexual encounters, talks and more.
Because the book was so well written and so everlasting (it was first published in 1782), the script for CRUEL INTENTIONS has its certain sophistication and continual plot twists. Likewise, the art direction and photography are well done. These production qualities remain the only admirable thing about this movie. The morality and subject matter is a new low for the teenage genre. While there is no doubt that high school can be cruel, and that some teenagers are sexually active, the politics and attitudes on display here are surreal in their disparity. Ironically, Ryan Phillippe recently stated on television that he and his real life girlfriend, Reese Witherspoon, are expecting a baby. No talk of marriage at all.
Perhaps most despicable is Kathryn who pulls out the "good Christian girl" card when it is useful to her wicked schemes. Kathryn wears a crucifix around her neck. Later, it is revealed that it is filled with cocaine. Kathryn also gets her kicks with lesbian French kissing, and teasing and baiting Sebastian sexually.
At the screening, teenage boys hooted and hollered in delight. Their dates seemed embarrassed. Some couples left. Although the end of the story implies a certain divine justice for the sins of the players, the end in no ways justifies the means and throughout this movie the wickedness was touted as sheer entertainment. Self-respecting older teenagers or young adults will want to spare themselves from the cruel work this movie could inflict on their spirits and souls.