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Scott Ventura >> Movie Commentary >> June 2000 >> Cruel Intentions

Cruel Intentions

Movie Commentary by Scott Ventura


Scott's Rating:
4 / 5
Times Seen:
Viewing Date:
June 2000
IMDB Name:
Cruel Intentions (1999)
Roger Kumble
drama, romance
MPAA Rating:
R for strong sexual dialogue and sexual situations involving teens, language, and drug use.

Creative Cruelty

Cruel Intentions starts out with Ryan Phillippe's rich brat showing his distracted counselor, played by Swoosie Kurtz, who's boss. Both play the scene blantantly patronizing each other in a funny sort of way, and when we find out how severely Phillippe's Sebastian has decimated his foe, it's surprisingly nasty and nifty all at once. This is only the first of the movie's escapades into emotional attacks, but it sets the tone. When Sarah Michelle Gellar makes her appearance as Sebastian's step-sister Kathryn, the games become more interesting. Both are heartless manipulators whose combined aftermath makes Payback's Porter look like a saint. At least he only kills his prey, instead of turning them into head cases.

In retrospect, the plot, involving the interconnected conquests of Sebastian over Annette, Kathryn over Sebastian, and Kathryn over Court by way of Cecile and Ronald, is confusing, and leaves a few things poorly resolved. Of course, if the title were the less mellifluous "Deceptive Intentions", it would make perfect sense. The ending, while theoretically a happy one, is hardly satisfying. Sebastian and Kathryn both get some form of comeuppance, and we are spared seeing the despair of the victims caught in their crossfire.


All of this is well and good, but the movie is also interested in being fairly sexy. I still have trouble envisioning any of the actors actually being in high school. This is particularly funny when you consider that Reese Witherspoon and Gellar have both been very convincing as high school students in other roles. It's much easier to see them as college students, and also makes attraction to them less lascivious and less illegal. I am unsurprised that Gellar can get the blood boiling as a woman who enjoys sex and isn't afraid to go after it. Selma Blair's ultra-naïve Cecile is hot precisely because of her innocence. The movie has a few suggestive scenes that are exciting, but it's not the sustained sexiness of, say, Bound.

Casting Connections

I've seen Ryan Phillippe before in 54 as one of the primaries, but I can't say I really remember the part. Sarah Michelle Gellar is, of course, Buffy of TV's "Buffy the Vampire Slayer". Reese Witherspoon is high on my list of favorite actresses for her work in Election, but she was also very enjoyable in Pleasantville. I primarily associate Christine Baranski with her wonderful work as Carol in Bowfinger. Louise Fletcher has the negligible part of the aunt in Cruel Intentions, but I still can't help thinking back to her turn as the infamous Nurse Ratched in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. Tara Reid played the counselor's daughter in Cruel Intentions, but it's funny to pretend that she's still playing Vicky in American Pie. Speaking of the counselor, Swoosie Kurtz had a great part in Citizen Ruth.


When the counselor gives a copy of her book to Sebastian, he remarks with delight that it's autographed. The cover didn't look autographed, and he didn't open it up to see that the inside was autographed. What made him say that?

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Copyright 2000-2001 by Scott Ventura. All rights reserved.