Cruel Intentions is a 1999 American teen romantic drama film directed by Roger Kumble and starring Sarah Michelle Gellar, Ryan Phillippe, Reese Witherspoon, and Selma Blair. The film is an adaptation of the novel Les Liaisons dangereuses, written by Pierre Choderlos de Laclos in 1782, but set among wealthy teenagers attending high school in New York City instead of 18th-century France.
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Roger Kumble|
|Produced by||Neal H. Moritz|
|Screenplay by||Roger Kumble|
|Based on||Les Liaisons dangereuses|
by Pierre Choderlos de Laclos
|Music by||Edward Shearmur|
|Cinematography||Theo van de Sande|
|Edited by||Ryan Mikel|
|Distributed by||Columbia Pictures|
|Box office||$76.3 million|
The film started as a smaller budget independent film, but was picked up by Columbia Pictures and released on March 5, 1999. Despite mixed critical reviews, the performances of Gellar, Philippe, and Witherspoon were praised. Cruel Intentions was a box office success, earning $76 million, with two direct-to-video sequels.
In an upscale New York City mansion, wealthy and popular teenager Kathryn Merteuil (Sarah Michelle Gellar) discusses her prep school with Mrs. Caldwell (Christine Baranski) and her daughter, Cecile (Selma Blair). Kathryn promises Mrs. Caldwell that she will look out for the naive Cecile. When Kathryn's stepbrother Sebastian Valmont (Ryan Phillippe) enters the room, Mrs. Caldwell reacts to him coldly and leaves with Cecile.
Kathryn tells Sebastian that she intends to use Cecile to take revenge on ex-lover Court Reynolds (Charlie O'Connell), who dumped her for Cecile. Kathryn asks Sebastian to seduce Cecile, thereby spoiling her in Court's eyes. Sebastian refuses because he is planning to seduce Annette Hargrove (Reese Witherspoon), the headmaster's virgin daughter, who has published an essay in support of chastity until marriage.
After some negotiation, they agree on a wager: if Sebastian fails to seduce Annette, Kathryn gets Sebastian's vintage Jaguar XK140; if he succeeds, Kathryn will have sex with him, as Kathryn is the only girl Sebastian has failed to bed.
Sebastian's first attempt to seduce Annette fails, as she already knows about his bad reputation. Sebastian discovers that Mrs. Caldwell, Cecile's mother, warned Annette about him. He finally agrees to corrupt Cecile out of revenge.
Meanwhile, Cecile confides in Kathryn about her romance with her music teacher, Ronald Clifford (Sean Patrick Thomas). Kathryn reveals the romance to Mrs. Caldwell, who orders Cecile to end the relationship. Sebastian lures Cecile to his house, offering a letter from Ronald. He then blackmails Cecile in order to perform oral sex on her. The next day, Cecile confides in Kathryn, who advises her to be as promiscuous as possible to please Ronald.
Sebastian begins to truly fall in love with Annette, who returns his feelings but is still hesitant. Sebastian calls her a hypocrite because although she claims to be waiting for her one true love, she resists him when he chooses to love her back. Annette finally relents. But Sebastian, confused about his own feelings, now refuses her. Annette flees to the estate of her friend's parents. Sebastian finds her and professes his love, and they consummate their relationship.
Kathryn offers herself to Sebastian after he wins the bet, but he rejects her: he now only wants Annette. Enraged and jealous, Kathryn insults his masculinity. Stung, Sebastian informs her that he was planning to tell Annette the truth. Kathryn warns him that doing so will destroy both his and Annette's reputations. Sebastian lies to Annette, claiming he just wanted to see what she was like in bed, but has no real feelings for her. Devastated, Annette tells him to leave.
Sebastian informs Kathryn that he has broken with Annette and now wants his reward for winning the bet. Kathryn reveals that he, and not Annette, was the true victim of her scheme: for her own amusement, she manipulated him into abandoning Annette once she realized that he truly loved her. She then dismisses him, telling him that she doesn't sleep with "losers".
Sebastian desperately tries to contact Annette to confess the truth and beg her forgiveness, but she refuses to see him. He gives her his journal, in which he has detailed Kathryn's manipulative schemes, their bet, and his true feelings for Annette.
Ronald starts a fist fight with Sebastian after Kathryn tells him that Sebastian hit her and violated Cecile. Annette tries to intervene, but is thrown into traffic; Sebastian is hit by a car when he pushes her to safety. Before dying, Sebastian confesses his love for her and Annette tells him she loves him too. Ronald leaves the scene in shame, realizing Kathryn lied to him.
In her eulogy at Sebastian's funeral, Kathryn claims she tried to set an example for her late brother. When people start leaving midway through her speech, Kathryn rushes outside to find Cecile handing out copies of Sebastian's journal. Kathryn's spotless reputation is finally destroyed as the details of her manipulations are made public.
In the final scene, Annette drives away in Sebastian's car with his journal at her side, remembering the good moments they shared together.
- Sarah Michelle Gellar as Kathryn Merteuil, based on the Marquise de Merteuil
- Ryan Phillippe as Sebastian Valmont, based on the Viscomte de Valmont
- Reese Witherspoon as Annette Hargrove, based on Madame de Tourvel
- Selma Blair as Cecille Caldwell, based on Cécile Volanges
- Louise Fletcher as Helen Rosemond, based on Madame de Rosemonde
- Joshua Jackson as Blaine Tuttle
- Eric Mabius as Greg McConnell
- Sean Patrick Thomas as Ronald Clifford, based on the Chevalier Danceny
- Swoosie Kurtz as Dr. Regina Greenbaum (Kurtz notably portrayed Madame de Volanges in the 1988 film version of Dangerous Liaisons)
- Christine Baranski as Bunny Caldwell, based on Madame de Volanges
- Alaina Reed Hall as Nurse
- Deborah Offner as Mrs. Michalak
- Tara Reid as Marcie Greenbaum
- Hiep Thi Le as Mai-Lee
- Herta Ware as Mrs. Sugarman
- Drew Snyder as Headmaster Hargrove
- Charlie O'Connell as Court Reynolds, based on the Comte de Gercourt
- Fred Norris as Meter Maid
The film received mixed reviews from critics. Rotten Tomatoes gave the film a score of 54%, based on reviews from 112 critics, with an average score of 5.24/10. The site's consensus stated: "This darkly comic drama and its attractive young cast are easy on the eyes, but uneven performances and an uninspired script conspire to foil Cruel Intentions." Metacritic gave the film an average score of 56% based on reviews from 24 critics. Charles Taylor of Salon.com described the film as "The dirtiest-minded American movie in recent memory - and an honestly corrupt entertaining picture is never anything to sneeze at." Stephen Holden of The New York Times stated, "You have the queasy sense that the whole thing is just an elaborate stunt, and in this case an exploitative one." Despite this, Roger Ebert—a noted film critic for The Chicago Sun Times—praised Cruel Intentions and gave the film three out of four stars in his review. He stated that it was "smart and merciless in the tradition of the original story".
The film received the following awards and nominations:
|2000||Blockbuster Entertainment Awards||Favorite Supporting Actress (Reese Witherspoon)||Won|
|Golden Slate Awards||Best Original Score||Won|
|Best Actress in a Leading Role (Sarah Michelle Gellar)||Nominated|
|Best Movie Soundtrack||Won|
|Best Teen Movie||Nominated|
|MTV Movie Awards||Best Female Performance (Sarah Michelle Gellar)||Won|
|Best Kiss (Sarah Michelle Gellar, Selma Blair)||Won|
|Best Male Performance (Ryan Phillippe)||Nominated|
|Best Villain (Sarah Michelle Gellar)||Nominated|
|Teen Choice Awards||Choice Movie: Drama||Won|
|Choice Movie Actor (Ryan Phillippe)||Nominated|
|Choice Movie Actress (Reese Witherspoon)||Nominated|
|Choice Movie: Love Scene (Reese Witherspoon, Ryan Phillippe)||Nominated|
|Choice Movie: Villain (Sarah Michelle Gellar)||Won|
|Choice Movie: Soundtrack||Nominated|
Prequel and sequelsEdit
The film received two direct-to-video follow-ups: a prequel titled Cruel Intentions 2 in 2001, and a sequel titled Cruel Intentions 3 in 2004. Written and directed by Roger Kumble, the former was assembled from Manchester Prep, a scrapped prequel series by Fox, of which three episodes had been filmed. It features younger versions of the characters of Sebastian Valmont and Kathryn Merteuil played by Robin Dunne and Amy Adams, alongside Sarah Thompson and Keri Lynn Pratt. Cruel Intentions 3 was directed by Scott Ziehl and features Kerr Smith, Kristina Anapau, Nathan Wetherington, Melissa Yvonne Lewis, Natalie Ramsey and Tom Parker.
Cancelled television seriesEdit
NBC announced in October 2015 that they had picked up a television pilot for a continuation of the film's storyline. The pilot was to be written by Kumble, Jordan Ross and Lindsey Rosin, with Sebastian Valmont and Annette Hargrove's son being the main character. In February 2016, Taylor John Smith and Samantha Logan were cast, with Smith playing the male lead role of Bash Casey, Sebastian Valmont and Annette Hargrove's son. Gellar reached a deal with producers to reprise her role as the female lead, Kathryn Merteuil. In March, Kate Levering was cast in the role of Annette Hargrove. On October 31, 2016, NBC announced that they decided not to go through with the series.
Cruel Intentions: The Musical is a 1990s jukebox musical also by Ross, Rosin and Kumble, based on the film. After two runs in Los Angeles and a pop-up engagement in New York, the show made its Off-Broadway debut at the Greenwich Village nightclub Le Poisson Rouge in November 2017 and ran into April 2018. Set to pop and rock hits of the 1990s and songs from the film's soundtrack, the plot concern the manipulations of Sebastian Valmont and Kathryn Merteuil. The diabolical step-siblings place a bet on whether or not Sebastian can deflower their incoming headmaster's daughter, Annette Hargrove.
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- Taylor, Charles. (1999-03-05). "Cruel Intentions". Salon.com. Retrieved 2014-06-14.
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- Keating, Shannon. "It's Been 20 Years Since "Cruel Intentions," And There's Never Been Another Movie Quite Like It". Buzzfeed News. Retrieved 7 March 2019.
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- Andreeva, Nellie (February 23, 2016). "'Cruel Intentions': Taylor John Smith Set As the Male Lead, Samantha Logan Cast". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved February 23, 2016.
- Andreeva, Nellie (February 24, 2016). "Sarah Michelle Gellar To Reprise 'Cruel Intentions' Role In NBC Pilot". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved February 25, 2016.
- Andreeva, Nellie (March 1, 2016). "'Cruel Intentions': Kate Levering To Play Reese Witherspoon's Annette In NBC Pilot". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved April 4, 2016.
- Andreeva, Nellie (October 31, 2016). "'Cruel Intentions' Not Going Forward At NBC, To Be Shopped Elsewhere By Sony". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved November 1, 2016.
- Lefkowitz, Andy. "Cruel Intentions Musical Extends Off-Broadway Run for Third & Final Time", Broadway.com, February 20, 2018