Embracing the Melodrama #47: Cruel Intentions (dir by Roger Kumble)


For the past 10 days, I’ve been reviewing some of the most and least memorable melodramas ever filmed.  Starting with 1916’s Where Are My Children?, we’ve been moving chronologically through film history.  We’re now coming to the end of the 90s and what better way to end that decade than by taking a look at 1999’s Cruel Intentions?

Cruel Intentions takes place in the upscale world of a New York private school.  Rich and popular Kathryn Merteuil (Sarah Michelle Gellar) is also a manipulative hypocrite who destroys reputations on a whim and carries cocaine in her ever-present cross necklace.  Kathryn is upset because her boyfriend has recently dumped her and is now dating the sweet and innocent Cecile (Selma Blair).  Kathryn asks her decadent cousin Sebastian Valmont (Ryan Phillippe) to seduce Cecile.  However, Sebastian refuses, saying that the challenge would be too easy.  Instead, he plans to seduce Annette Hargrove (Reese Whitherspoon), who has recently written an acclaimed essay about the importance of chastity and who also happens to be the daughter of the school’s headmaster.  Kathryn is intrigued by Sebastian’s plan and makes a bet with him.  If Sebastian manages to take Annette’s virginity than Kathryn will have sex with him…

Now, if you’ve already read my previous review of Dangerous Liaisons, the plot of Cruel Intentions probably sounds a bit familiar.  That’s because both of these films are based on the same source material —  Les Liaisons dangereuses by Pierre Choderlos de Laclos.  The main difference between the two films — beyond the fact that Dangerous Liaisons is set in pre-Revolutionary France and Cruel Intentions is set in 1990s New York — is that Dangerous Liaisons uses the material to comment on the excesses of the rich while Cruel Intentions is all about style.

And, to be honest, while Dangerous Liaisons is undoubtedly the better film, Cruel Intentions is a lot more fun.  I first saw Cruel Intentions shortly before I started my sophomore year of high school and I excitedly thought to myself, “So this is what high school is going to be like!”  Well, unfortunately, it turned out that I was wrong but oh well!  (Though, in all fairness to the film, I went to a public high school in the suburbs of Dallas as opposed to a rich private school in New York.)  The movie still a lot of fun, even if it didn’t quite match up with reality.  Everything from the costumes (I absolutely LOVED every single outfit that Sarah Michelle Gellar wore and, even before it was revealed to be full of cocaine, that cross necklace was to die for) to the ornate sets to the wonderfully melodramatic and self-aware performances — it all works towards creating a vivid and engrossing alternative universe.

So no, don’t take Cruel Intentions seriously.

Just enjoy the dance while it lasts.

cruel-intentions

Tomorrow, embracing the melodrama enters the 21st Century!

What Lisa Watched Last Night: 2-Headed Shark Attack (dir. by Christopher Douglas-Olen Ray)


Last night, I turned over to the SyFy network and I watched a little film called 2-Headed Shark Attack.

Why Was I Watching It?

I blame twitter.  Every Saturday, at 8:00 pm, a group of brave and witty film fans log onto twitter and spend the next two hours deconstructing whatever movie might happen to be playing on the SyFy network that night.  Last night, that film was 2-Headed Shark Attack.

Also, how often do you get to see a shark with two heads?  I saw a lamb with two heads once and that was pretty disturbing but a shark with two heads?  Seriously, there was simply no excuse for not watching.

(Speaking for myself, I couldn’t handle having two heads, just because I suspect the other head would be an attention whore.)

What Was It About?

For some reason, there’s a bunch of incredibly stupid college students on a boat that’s floating out in the middle of nowhere.  Apparently, they’re taking part in a “semester at sea” program though, as I watched the film, I came to suspect that they had actually been kidnapped by pirates claiming to be professors and they were unknowingly being delivered to a white slavery ring in Aruba.

Anyway, the head professor (or pirate) is Prof. Babish (former Bachelor Charlie O’Connell) and when the boat starts to sink, largely because of his own stupidity, he decides to take all of his students to a nearby atoll.  There, they can all hang out and deliver terrible dialogue while the ship’s hull is repaired and the professor’s wife (Carmen Electra) works on her tan.

The only problem is that the atoll is in the process of sinking and there’s a shark with two heads prowling the waters…

What Worked?

Like most Asylum films, 2-Headed Shark Attack is a film that was made to be watched with friends.  If you’re taking the film seriously, you’re missing the point.  This is one of those films that invites you to sit back and laugh along with it. 

The two-headed shark was the best actor in the film and it was easy to root for him. 

Charlie O’Connell has a scene where he gets what appears to be a minor scratch on his leg and he responds by going, “Ow, ow, ow, ow, ow, ow, ow, ow…” for about ten minutes straight.  It simply has to be seen to be believed.

What Did Not Work?

The film’s heroine was played by Brooke Hogan and wow.  Whether it was because of the sleep-inducing way she delivered her lines or the fact that her character claimed that she could repair the boat because, “My dad was a welder,” I have to say that I have never so wanted to see one person get devoured by a two-headed shark.

Initially, those of us on twitter were really excited because we thought that one of the characters was named Tequila.  However, it soon became obvious that we had all misheard and his name was actually Dikilla.  Don’t get me wrong, Dikilla is a pretty good name but, after we had all had so much fun with the idea of him being named Tequila, it was hard not to be disappointed to discover that we were wrong.

“OH MY GOD!  Just like me!’ Moment 

Though she was roundly despised by just about everyone on twitter, I have to admit that I very much related to the character who became known as “the blue eyeshadow girl.”  She was the girl who continually came up with the silliest solutions to the group’s predicament.  She also had a gun for most of the film but, during the final minutes, revealed that she had absolutely no idea how to use it when she fired point-blank at the two-headed shark and, somehow, managed to miss every time.  Even as I made fun of her on twitter, I silently thought to myself, “That would so be me if I had ever signed up for a semester at sea.”

Lessons Learned

Double the head equals double the fun.