The story is that Kathryn Merteuil (Gellar), the rich, vindictive
seductress and class president of the selective Manchester School,
and her half-brother Sebastian (Phillipe), the bad-boy Cassanova,
enjoy seeing people's reputations destroyed, so they decide to
make a wager: He will bed the squeaky-clean Annette Hargrove (Reese
Witherspoon), who has had her "I want to wait for true love
before having sex" manifesto published in a national magazine.
Annette, who has just come to Manchester this year, is looked
on by all as the ideal of adolescent restraint and maturity. So
our two infantile sex scoundrels put their plan in motion, with
the following terms: If Kathryn wins (that is, if Sebastian fails
to make it with Annette), she gets his '56 Jaguar Roadster. If
Sebastian does the deed with Annette, he gets to do the deed with
Kathryn, no holes barred (if you catch my drift). But the plan
backfires: Sebastian is so impressed by Annette's wholesome charms,
he actually falls in love with her.
Meanwhile, Cecile Caldwell (Selma Blair), a virginal ditz whose
mother (Christine Baranski) has entrusted her to Kathryn's care,
is similarly undone by Sebastian so that the man she loves (Sean
Patrick Thomas) can be had by Kathryn.
I thought Gellar was bad in Simply
Irresistible, but watching her make pastries is infinitely
more enjoyable than squirming through her attempt at evil refinement.
Apart from spreading her legs and opening her blouse, her portrayal
of Kathryn contains little that is remotely impressive. And if
you think she's bad, you should see Phillippe as Sebastian,
who supposedly wants to get Kathryn in bed (since she's the only
one in school he hasn't yet). Phillipe seems to be cast seriously
against his own personal grain here. His scrawny, mincing, overintellectual
performance makes it difficult to watch the many scenes in which
he's making it with the various women of the film. I haven't seen
a man so uncomfortable with his heterosexual role since Malcolm
Gets in Caroline In The City.
The performances by Witherspoon and Blair are not terrible,
but they can't save the film from Gellar and Phillipe. Kumble's
directing, if he was even present during shooting, has people
doing things unfathomable to human nature. The little emotion
portrayed is openly faked, with people suddenly "crying"
when the situation has not given reason for it. You could tell
the eyedroppers were working overtime during the final reel, because
every time you turn around there's another fake tear rolling down
someone's unemotional cheek.
Don't waste your hard-earned dollars on Cruel Intentions, unless you want to find yourself victim to the wager that must have been made between Kumble and his producers. Maybe if the film makes a million dollars, he gets to drive someone's vintage Yugo. *
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