Welcome to Screen Gems, Welcome to Screen Gems, our weekend dive into queer and queer-adjacent titles of the past that deserve a watch or a rewatch.
The Kinky: Cruel Intentions
How many 90s teens had their first sexual awakening whilst watching Cruel Intentions? Director Roger Kumble’s adaptation of the scandalous French novel Les Liaisons Dangerous updates the story of horny, scheming French aristocrats to horny, scheming overprivileged teens in a private school in Manhattan. Ryan Phillippe stars as Sebastian, an arrogant, rich snob who has made a hobby of seducing young, virginal girls at school. Egging him on is his step-sister Kathryn (Sarah Michelle Gellar), an equally sadistic woman with whom Sebastian has an unrequited sexual connection, and Blaine (Joshua Jackson) a gay pothead who rejoices in affairs with the school’s closet cases. The three have their sexy schemes interrupted by the arrival of Annette (Reese Witherspoon), a proud virgin who preaches the evils of premarital sex to her peers. When Kathryn bets that Sebastian can’t seduce Annette, a dark, downward spiral begins.
Cruel Intentions broke new ground for its frankness in dealing with teen sex (including graphic nudity) and teenage gayness (lesbianic scenes between Gellar and Blair are also a riot). Today, the cast list reads like a whose-who of soon-to-be stars: Phillippe, Gellar and Witherspoon lead a cast that includes Jackson, Selma Blair, Tara Reid, Sean Patrick Thomas, and Eric Mabius alongside showbiz veterans Louise Fletcher, Swoozie Kurtz and Christine Baranski. We speculate that the litany of talent involved, along with strong source material, helped elevate Cruel Intentions above other teen fare into the realm of cult classic. Gellar and Phillippe do some of their best big-screen work as the movie’s villains, and Phillippe’s posterior reminds us why it became one of the most discussed stars of the latter 90s.
Streams on iTunes.