What parents need to know
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that this film contains quite a lot of sex, most of it not shown explicitly, but all of it highly suggestive. There is liberal use of the usual four-letter words, and many examples of manipulative and cruel behavior.
What's the story?
Based on the novel Dangerous Liaisons, CRUEL INTENTIONS centers on step-siblings Kathryn (Sarah Michelle Geller) and Sebastian (Ryan Phillippe), rich New York City teens who amuse themselves by manipulating and betraying other people. Kathryn has been rejected by her latest flame in favor of Cecile (Selma Blair), and she concocts an elaborate plan for revenge. Sebastian has his sights set on Annette (Reese Witherspoon), who has declared that she will remain a virgin until marriage. The film documents the outcomes of these schemes, with some unintended, and dire, consequences.
Is it any good?
The novel on which Cruel Intentions is based has been filmed several times, but it took a special stroke of genius to re-set it in the particularly malicious world of wealthy Upper East Side teenagers. The performances are generally quite good, and the contemporary setting suits the story perfectly. Filmed in settings of dizzying opulence, the atmosphere of indolent wealth is very strong and very real throughout.
The story exposes the dark side of people who appear good on the surface, and mature viewers will enjoy both the thrill of the badness and a sense of superiority over these very depraved characters. It's definitely not for tweens and young teens, but its themes of love, betrayal, manipulation, and cruelty will ring true for older teenagers. If you do decide to let your younger teen watch it, keep in mind they might need some guidance to unweave the subtleties of the story. In the end, though, the worst of the evil is punished and good prevails.
Families can talk about...
Families can talk about why the characters behave the way they do –- why is Kathryn so cruel? Why is Sebastian so unconcerned about the feelings of the women he takes advantage of? Is their social status a factor? What about their parents? There are also questions about the film's resolution –- is Sebastian sincere in what he tells Annette? Is what Annette does justified?