Dear Cruel Intentions, (An Examination from Remake Hell)
(An Examination from Remake Hell)
I’m sure when someone proposed you out loud there was one of those studio Mc’Executives standing around thinking this would be a great idea. When the pitch included modern settings and filthy rich college kids, I bet Mc’Executive was frothing at the mouth with dollar signs in their eyes!
As is case for many such adaptations, it made a profit and assuredly sealed the doom for numerous other remakes. But lets look at the original film this had the audacity to revisit. The original, in this case, is the iconic Dangerous Liasons. Did I hear a groan? I hope so. The original took the 1782 book Les Liaisons Dangereuses to the big screen with an ensemble cast that created such a masterpiece that it set the serious tone for many a career of those in the film! From Malkovich and legend Glenn Close to Michelle Pfeiffer, Swoosie Kurtz and a young Uma Thurman. What the original did that this iteration couldn’t muster was bring a period alive! 17th century France never seemed so full of life and the nuance and subtlety than it did via the game between Isebelle and Sébastien. It was never as tawdry and cheap as the Sarah Michelle Gellar and Ryan Phillippe characters in Cruel Intentions. Even the ditzy Cecile and prim Annette Hargrove in the remake are but a shadow of the original Cecile and Madame de Tourvel.
Perhaps this remake suffers the change of time more so than most remakes. I mean the 1700’s were a deeply charged romantic time and the filmmaker Stephen Frears takes advantage of this at every turn. The remake has a flat visual aspect to its cinematography which is quite the opposite of the original and only serves to show just how bored the main characters truly are. All of this uninspired crafting of the opening and middle parts of the film rob viewers of being invested in the characters at the end. Gellar’s Kathryn is the biggest offender of the whole remake. She is despicable and heinous for no other reason than she can be. Glenn Close’s character is so much more multidimensional and sympathetic via the fact she’s working in the ‘mans world,’ of that era. This serves to keep viewers from totally vilifying her and all she does as you do with Kathryn. Its truly night and day in its impact and quality of story! In cruel intentions its all a game only. In the original it’s a much more serious life and death matter!
When everything goes wrong in both films and Sébastien falls for his prey, the original is riveting. A dramatic wrenching ordeal that goes far beyond the depth of Isabelle’s game. It is this outcome that shows the nature of Isabelle’s true feelings. When they are exposed and when she stumbles there is the satisfaction of knowing there was more there than the game, and now their loss is also her loss. In the remake she just emasculates Ryan’s Sébastien and shows barely a flicker of remorse. In the end of the original when the reality of it all drowns Glenn Close’s character, it shows her heart in that makeup wiping finale, … and our heart breaks with hers for all of those in the story that lost.
In your new story, when Kathryn is exposed through the work of Cecile and Annette, you can hardly muster disgust for Kathryn and or sympathy for any of the other characters. Even the last ‘how dare you’ look at me like that gasp of indignation is a slap in the face to the heart of the original story. Its with this look planted firmly in my memory I decide to remember you in order to avoid you from this day hence!
With a snort of disdain and disappointed shake of my head, I a turn on my heel,