It’s 2 AM and you awake with a jerk, alone in your fully-lit apartment and still on the couch. On TV, the credits of some movie you’ve already seen a billion times are scrolling by. It feels like rock bottom. And we know, because we’re just like you: single.
Need a movie to keep you company until you literally can’t keep your eyes open? Join us tonight when we pass out to Cruel Intentions [starting @ 12:45 a.m. on More Max]
Why we’ll try to stay up and watch it: If you need an object lesson on how long ten years really is, look no further than the marketing campaign for Cruel Intentions. When the Dangerous Liaisons-Goes-Prep-School teen film came out in March of 1999, the poster featured the giant heads of stars Sarah Michelle Gellar and Ryan Phillippe, but only a tiny shot of Reese Witherspoon, sitting crossed legged between them. For her work on Cruel Intentions the future Oscar-winning actress earned $250,000; now Ms. Witherspoon commands nearly $15 million per picture.
Of course, that was a different time for Hollywood. It might be hard to remember, but from 1996 through 2000, Neve Campbell, Jennifer Love Hewitt and Rachel Leigh Cook ruled the box office, starring as similarly virginal good girls thrown into demographically approved situations (horror, high school or both). Ms. Gellar made her fair share of appearances alongside those actresses, but she never really fit in with the crowd. There always seemed to be something more salacious running underneath her mostly benign screen personas. Enter Cruel Intentions, where, as Kathryn, the actress gets to embrace her inner bitch—activities include: snorting coke out of a Crucifix necklace, scheming to ruin peoples lives and spouting a torrent of unprintable sexual come-ons—her line reading of “you can put it anywhere” would make a porn star blush. We truly love everything that Leighton Meester does as Blair on Gossip Girl, but she only wishes she could conjure up a performance like Ms. Gellar’s.
Meanwhile, as Kathryn’s stepbrother, Sebastian, a bored teenage womanizer who pouts his way through the film and uncorks howlers like “I’m sick of sleeping with these insipid Manhattan debutantes”, Mr. Phillippe shines. Perhaps Ms. Witherspoon should have taken his perfect embodiment of this character to be a foreboding sign of things to come instead of an invitation to hopeful wedded bliss.
When we’ll probably fall asleep: The funny thing about Cruel Intentions is that, despite a healthy use of the word “fuck” and a few too many head-drops-out-of-the-frame-to-pantomime-oral-sex jokes, the film doesn’t seem much more scandalous at this point than a regular episode of Gossip Girl. (That might be all you need to know about how much times have changed.) However, Cruel Intentions does feature one debauched encounter that, thus far, Gossip Girl has refused to try: the lesbian kiss. So we’ll make it until 1:15, 30 minutes into the film, when Ms. Gellar teaches a very game Selma Blair how to get to first base. The reason the kiss manages to be more than just another exploitative soft-core male fantasy is because the two actresses are wildly funny together—no one plays innocent stupidity like Ms. Blair, and Ms. Gellar treats her with a perfect blend of incredulity and phoniness. The kiss winds up being secondary to their skills as comedic performers. And, well, yeah… that it’s also pretty hot doesn’t hurt either.
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