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Cruel Intentions

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I was disappointed by the conclusion of Cruel Intentions. I was truly hoping that the "stunning conclusion" would be proof that the actions of the main characters no longer function the same in this day and age. In the 18th century, sex really could make or break a woman's future, and the Marquise deliberately contriving to ruin a young woman was criminal. Sex does not function anywhere near that, now, especially in the setting of the movie. So, really, the stunning conclusion wasn't. The Vicomte equivalent, because he is a man, was made into the hero of the piece. The two girls that he deflowered, because of the innocence still clinging to them, also came out unscathed. The only person in the movie who came to a bad end (in the sense of viewer relations with the character) was Kathryn. Of course she would have to, because she was completely in control of her sexuality-- we can't have young women thinking that is okay. The question, however, remains: what, exactly, did she do that was so bad? Neither girl was forced (a huge jump from the original). Cecile, though ditzy, was ready to jump into sex. Annette's consent had little to do with Kathryn's intentions. The duel scene, unlike the novel, was a coincidental passing of the two rather than deliberate machinations. Yes, Kathryn was conniving, but what high school senior isn't?

The ridiculousness of sticking directly to the plotline was most evident at the duel scene. "You slept with Cecile! Now I shall have to beat you up!" Of course, I am paraphrasing. But our young musician was also found hiding naked in Kathryn's drawer; fidelity was't exactly the issue. Was he upset because HE was planning on being the first to enter young Cecile? If so, his actions must be as suspect as Sebastians. I believe that what this movie should have been titled is "Cruel Intentions: Double Standards."
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On April 23rd, 2006 08:01 pm (UTC), mooviejunkey commented:
I think Kathryn got what she deserved in the end-- I loved it! She pretended to like everyone and be so holy when in actuality she used anyone and everyone to serve her own purpose. She was fake and she was exposed for the back-stabbing little witch she truly was. The journal at the end showed the cocaine hidden in her crucifix, talked about "the bet", talked about using Cecile, and by the looks on all the students faces it alluded to the fact that Kathryn had at one time or another had said something nasty or used everyone in the school at one point or another for her benefit-- why else would they be so pissed. She didn't have the typical friendship relationships and thought they were silly. The director's commentary is interesting on the "style" of the movie. They wanted as many sets to look like something set in the 18th century as possible with modern touches and attire. They wanted the clothes to be something that teens would want when they left the theatre-- nothing "teen" looking. Kathryn's and Sebastian's bedrooms were to look grown-up as well-- Capitalism at its best!
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On April 23rd, 2006 08:39 pm (UTC), ninjona commented:
Don't Hate the Player, Hate the Game
Seriously, Leah. I totally agree. Valmont got off way too easily (pun intended) in CI. At the end of DL he was way less sympathetic. While he did probably fall in love with Madame de Tourvel, at least that's what we're supposed to think, his final act of giving the correspondence with Merteuil to Danceny with the suggestion of publication came off as more of a final act of treachery and deceit, using his dying breath to ruin yet another life. Never mind whether or not Merteuil deserved it, treachery is treachery. But CI he is almost a martyr in the end. WTF?!? So he genuinely falls in love with one girl and that automatically erases the pain and humiliation he caused any number of other people? And Merteuil deserves to be punished because she didn't fall in love with someone? Also, what about the fact that he inadvertently fell in love with that girl while trying to publicly humiliate her? Does this not count for anything?

Perhaps the decision on the part of the CI filmmakers was informed by the cultural attitudes towards male and female promiscuity, namely, sexually promiscuous males are players and sexually promiscuous females are sluts. This double standard is pretty much directly expressed throughout the film. Valmont in both films goes about his sexual conquests and cruelty to 'build up a reputation'. One has to wonder why, in this day and age, someone would want the reputation of ruining women's lives. Well, because sexually aggressive men are more or less celebrated. Shit, don't playa hate on Valmont. He's just doing his thing. Women have to be more secretive of course, because their reputation will the that of a slut and lead to total public humiliation. I thought the fact that the Tourvel character in CI published an article in a teen magazine about her chastity was pretty funny. In this society it is in a female's best interests, in terms of a public image, to appear somewhat chaste. However, if she is revealed to be of looser morals, such as the girl in the very beginning and Merteuil at the end, she is met with degredation and public humiliation.

However, as with Bridget Jones and women's self-esteem issues, I'm not sure it is entirely obvious whether CI is merely reflecting social attitudes or perpetuating them. Certainly it was perceptive on their part to realize that men in this society are treated much more kindly than women when it comes to dodgy sexual backgrounds, but how many people who watch this movie are going to be seeing it that way? Certainly, as mooviejunkey points out, Merteuil pretty much deserved what she got, but how many people will watch this movie and be outraged by the fact that Valmont didn't? The audience for this movie is basically going to be 18-25 year olds, who will certainly recognize the player/slut dichotomy but not necessarily see anything wrong with it. I'm just not sure this film makes much of a commentary about its own double standards. But again, it's kind of a tricky question, and not very easy to answer. Any thoughts on this?
On April 23rd, 2006 08:52 pm (UTC), ninjona replied:
Re: Don't Hate the Player, Hate the Game
Also, as Leah points out, high school senoirs are basically a cruel, selfish bunch. Bearing this in mind, how well does this story really translate into the lives of young people in the 90s? In the original version, the actions of the bored aristocrats spoke to a much larger problem of exploitation and cruelty of the ruling class. To me, in a high school/college setting, the issue of power struggles and exploitation is a little more trivial. Also, in DL Merteuil gives a speech about how she became cruel and cold hearted to gain a sense of power in a male-dominated society. If memory serves, in CI Merteuil just wants to get back at some guy who dumped her. In this light, as Leah notes, it really doesn't seem very fair that she gets humiliated at the end, since she actually does seem to be the lesser of two evils when compared to Valmont. Anyway, how well do you guys think the story was 'translated' into the 90s?
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On April 24th, 2006 08:58 pm (UTC), t_benedict commented:
I Hate the
Actually, I did not think the film was 'translated' at all. It was simply transposed. It may have added little flourishes--mini-updates. But any of the smart, self-reflexive 'commentaries' that one may attempt to find laudable (the psychiatrist's self-serving-ness, the girl-kiss, the contemplative and intelligent 'prude') were completely undermined by the final scene: A horde of indignant, self-righteous and--I will presume, from what I remember of high school--hypocritical teenagers shaking their tear-stained cheeks in disdain. Please.

I don't know. "Got what was coming to her" is pretty cut and dry. As Leah points out, and I would like to reiterate: who is not duplicitous? Though we may not all resort to revenge in response to petty slights, it is very commonplace to put on a "good face" now and again--or even act as subtle saboteurs--in order to get the acknowlegdement/position/whatever it is we might want, particularly in high school. It's child's play--and if that was what the film was attempting to present via hyperbole it was not, in my opinion, done very well. In that case the Geller-character should have been sent to rehab and made a fool of for taking herself so seriously. Instead, they reaffirmed the rich-girl-snob's idea of self-importance, if only through villification. (Think Paris Hilton).

If they (I don't know who this "they" is, by the way. Sorry. If they) wanted to examine the reality of teenage angst, particularly in regards to the old myths of the "Lothario" (playboy rake) and the virgin/whore, why did they simply retell the same old story? I find the novel's resolution much more stimulating and thoughtful, particularly for the period of its 'telling.' Told in the present, no matter how artful(less?)ly, with no modifications it simply reaffirms patriarchal (and often christian) ideals.

AND what was with Ms. Chaste-Chick driving off in the rake's car in the end? Is that supposed to be some kind of affirmation of the 'moral'? "Don't worry, be the good (not so) virtuous girl and you'll still get all of the nice things!"

I don't know, perhaps I am being too critical, but I was honestly upset and dismayed by the film's conclusion. It had so much potential--it could have actually said something new. Amazing!
On April 24th, 2006 09:10 pm (UTC), ninjona replied:
Re: I Hate the
As an aside, the revelation that Geller's crucifix had coke inside of it fell kind of flat for me. I guess that was supposed to be the full-circle revelation that she is evil, but a crucifix full of cocaine strikes me as high camp rather than evil. You can't take your camp too seriously, especially in a story about fashion-conscious rakish playboys.
On April 25th, 2006 12:12 am (UTC), lbenedict replied:
Re: Hate the Guy, Love the Car
I wondered about that, too. Was the title for his car kept in his journal, just waiting for his demise? Did he give her the car with his dying breath? And what did he really see in her silly faces? I know that if you were to do that to me, my only reaction would be to punch you, and vice versa. Not give you my neat car.

No offense to Reese Witherspoon. I think she's great.
On April 25th, 2006 01:46 am (UTC), ninjona replied:
Re: Hate the Guy, Love the Car
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On April 26th, 2006 07:12 am (UTC), nicolejones replied:
Re: Hate the Guy, Love the Car
In both DL and CI, I thought the the Pfeiffer/Witherspoon character was quite dull. Pfeiffer was dramatic, but her character wasn't anything too special, and Witherspoon I thought was prudish and boring; I failed to see what made her so great, great enough for Sabastian to fall in love with. I guess the scene with her face-making is supposed to clearly indicate that she is fun, different, spontaneous.. whatever. I simply was not sold.

The movie was funny, I was giggling the whole way through, and then the ending TOTALLY sucked, everything about it, the resolution so extremely cliche. It felt rushed too, like the director had surpassed his budget or due date and the conclusion was just tossed together over night. Reese gets the car, so essentially she won the bet; Annete prevailed over Katheryn. It's lame, CI makes Witherspoon part of their competition, and she wins. The message was about Geller being deceiving, vindictive, selfish, self/public destruction etc. and her demise, I thought that Witherspoon scoring that cool car completely tainted and diverted the message, it demeaned it to a petty competition.

CLICHE CONTRADICTIONS IN THE RESOLUTION OF CI:

Sabastion: Death; but gets to be the Hero?
Katheryn: Publically exposed and humiliated; she's the big loser
Witherspoon: Winner; she appears as a hero, and makes out like a bandit
Music Instructor: Has to live with the guilt of being a murderer; and will probably go to prison for picking the fight, reinforcing a stereotype
Cecile: Exposed as a victim; and her victimization reinforces that she is an idiot, she'll probably score a lot of pity points.

DL was far more impressive than this crap.

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