In 1999, Columbia Pictures released a small budget, indie film called Cruel Intentions. Cruel Intentions (CI) had rich kids doing adult things in a Manhattan setting. Yes, this movie set off the entire Gossip Girl rich kids in expensive settings soap opera trend. CI was a reworking of Dangerous Liasons with enough pretty teens to get the fannies in seats. The story is a classic conquest-seduction story with double crosses, which is good and is the reason why it has been redone multiple times. It's incredibly rewatchable, and when it shows up on cable I will keep it on. The dialogue is cheeky, the small touches are fantastic, and Sarah Michelle Gellar gives her best as the devious and manipulative Kathryn.
Looking at the Wikipedia entry, it shows a budget of $11 mil. They got all the teen actors in the early stages of their careers and made good choices. They got Reese Witherspoon when she had some extra jit on her (a good thing), Ryan Phillippe when he was at his poutiest, and SMG at her peak. I saw this in the theaters and downloaded it when I got back to my dorm and rewatched it over and over. With a limited budget, they had to nail the dialogue, keep the sets limited, and not rely on gimmicky shots or scene settings (the typical walk through NYC shot you see so often). There is an exchange between Christine Baranski and the midget actor Sean Patrick Thomas where she talks of bringing him to the right side of the tracks but he reminds her he's wealthy as well, which just mocks her 2nd degree racism. Small touches like Sebastian's Jaguar and the indie rock soundtrack were awesome. I had most of the soundtrack downloaded with the lesser known gem "Every me, every you" as my favorite. The Slow mo ending with "Bittersweet Symphony" blaring was a great ending in the MTV inspired montage. The gay twist with Joshua Jackson having the connection to the jock was great for the phone call Joshua Jackson makes to get the jock to show up (super gay voice). It also allowed for the jock to have a scene where he goes through magazines and Liza music. At the final reveal of Kathryn's coke vial, the guy shakes his head "unh uh" when he pours the coke out; that always kills me. Small touches. This is just a well done fluff film for a cheap budget. Hollywood should take note.
The real star of this film, and the absolute demon in a 5 foot 2 90 lb frame, was Sarah Michelle Gellar. She really sunk her teeth into the deliciously evil Kathryn. She manipulates everyone in the movie, and in the end she suffers the blow to her reputation. She really doesn't have much to work with physically, but she really teases Sebastian and obviously the audience. We know she puts out, and would even be down with Greek style sex, but we never see her naked. It is a great tease. It is a bit creepy since we are suppose to believe the characters are 14-17 years old. SMG could never recapture the spirit of this role, and she could never quite get over the cute look. She will always look cute, never adult woman pretty. It worked for her in Hollywood for a while, but she never made the leap. We will always have CI.
Cruel Intentions could not be made today as what senior in high school is a virgin? I joke, but they would have to make it flashier, simpler and with even more sex. Plus, the rich kid thing has been played out with the last decade of terrible MTV and cable shows. It would be hard to differentiate and capture an audience. I also doubt that a producer would be lucky enough to cast a future Academy Award winner as the 2nd leading lady. I will have to purchase this movie either on DVD or on download when they start to hit us up for downloaded movies. In the meantime I can only say "Oh Come On!"