in Oscars Fortnight, Review

Dangerous Liaisons (1988)

The 61st Academy Awards (1989)
Wins: 3

I like Cruel Intentions more than Dangerous Liaisons (let’s count how many times I misspell “Liaisons”). CI is not a better movie than DL, I’m not even sure if it’s a good movie. Why do I prefer a piece of ‘90s trash to an ‘80s critical darling? Because CI has hot people in it. I mean no disrespect to John Malkovich or Glenn Close, but considering how sexy the source material is here, it would be nice to get more studs and studettes in this joint. DL does have Michelle Pfeiffer (smart move) and Uma Thurman in a smaller role (another smart move) and Keanu Reeves (I love you Keanu but you are terrible in period pieces) but Merteuil and Valmont are the heart of the story, and there’s just not enough blood pumping for my personal tastes.

Based on Christopher Hampton’s 1985 play, which is based on Pierre Choderlos de Laclos’ 1782 novel, Dangerous Liaisons is the story of two rich jerks in pre-Revolution Paris (Close and Malkovich) who make a bet to corrupt the Madame Marie de Tourvel (Michelle Pfieffer). If Valmont succeeds in his seduction, Merteuil will sleep with Valmont. Ooh scandalous!

Struggling to seduce the chaste and religious Marie, Valmont hits another snag when he intercepts a letter to Tourvel from Madame de Volanges (Swoosie Kurtz) warning Marie to stay away from the conniving Valmont. So Valmont gets revenge by seducing Volanges’ daughter, Cécile (Uma Thurman). So much seduction! But wait, there’s more! Merteuil convinces Cécile to receive “sexual lessons” from Valmont at night, despite her burgeoning relationship with a young suitor named Danceny (Keanu Reeves).

Valmont’s plans unravel when he falls for Tourvel, which kills his deal with Merteuil. As you can imagine none of this sneaking around goes over well when the two are found out and ultimately ends in tragedy, much like Cruel Intentions. Unfortunately, unlike CI, DL does not end with The Verve’s “Bittersweet Symphony”.

I hate rich people in movies. I also hate period pieces where people wear powdered wigs. BUT, there is something I really like about how director Stephen Frears and writer Christopher Hampton portray said rich people in stuffy wigs: They suck. These upper class snobs are so bored with their affluent routines they have to create drama in their inner circle in order to feel alive. It’s no different than when you see rich assholes like Dave Chappelle or JK Rowling pick on trans people. Those celebrities have reached such an echelon of wealth, they have to destroy the lives of those they feel to be “lesser” in order to feel like they are still relevant to the world around them. They don’t have normal people problems anymore, so they create problems.

Close and Malkovich play great assholes. There’s a reason Glenn Close went on to play Cruella de Vil. They can play smug, or condescending with no more than a smirk or eye roll. It’s also fun to see both of them play perverts. So I do apologize for opening with “They aren’t hot enough!” Because they are still incredible actors. Yes, even better than Ryan Phillippe.

And that’s all I got for now. I don’t even want to think about how many typos are in this review. Au revoir!