No one would call 1999s Cruel Intentions a great movie, or even a good one. Too much of this modern-day Dangerous Liaisons adaptation relies upon gimmicks: dialogue that plays out like a series of for-shock-value one-liners rather than actual conversation (including Sarah Michelle Gellars You can put it anywhere), a flash of Ryan Phillippes naked ass, and a girl-on-girl kiss between Selma Blair and Gellar. Still, the filmmakers clearly knew what they were doing. Despite the mixed critical reviews, the movie went on to do pretty well in box-office receipts and, not surprisingly, garner an MTV Movie Award in the Best Kiss category.
Questionable quality aside, Ill always have a soft spot for Cruel Intentions. For starters, it was one of the first R-rated movies for which I was able to proudly flash my drivers license at the movie theater and not have to have an upperclassman purchase my ticket for me. (And this, after my mother had told me, Youre not seeing that! It has lots of bad S-E-X.) Then there was my freshman year of college, when a number of equally lame floor-mates and I watched the movie on VHS at least once a week. One friend once said that every time she ascended an escalator, she hoped shed see a blue-shirted Ryan Phillippe waiting at the top.
But lets forget about all of the movies campy-ness and its by-default level of quality for a moment. The soundtrack is pretty stellar, and its even managed to avoid sounding entirely dated. Sure, there are a couple tracks that place the movie firmly within the late 90s Fatboy Slims Praise You and The Verves Bittersweet Symphony, for example but the nostalgia is more sweet than bitter in both cases.
The soundtrack leads off with Placebos excellent Every You Every Me, as do the films opening credits. With its fast-building tempo and heavily paired drum beats and guitar strokes, the song signifies the films wonderful tension that is present from the beginning.
Blurs cheerful Coffee & TV features a high-pitched, breezy refrain that pairs well with its scene (the kissing scene, which I myself am getting tired of mentioning here already). But still, you cant picture that line of saliva stretching between Gellars and Blairs lips without recalling that distinctive up-tempo beat in the background.
Blairs appearances on screen are usually accompanied by some track that suggests her naiveté. Day Ones Bedroom Dancing, with its playful sexiness, can be heard when Phillippe has just seduced the virginal Blair, and shes basically acting as manic as ever. Abra Moores Trip On Love appears during a scene in which shes pulling a red hoodie over her head, and, fittingly, the lead singer has the voice of a little girl.
Counting Crows piano-heavy but otherwise spare Colorblind contains lyrics that match the on-screen situation in some very literal ways. Phillippes Sebastian has chased after Reese Witherspoons Annette and is attempting to cross her path at the train station. Its the first shot in which hes wearing an actual color (the blue shirt), which signifies his emotional transition. The lyrics I am colorblind/coffee black and egg white/pull me out from inside/I am ready/I am ready allow for transition into the next scene, in which he of course takes her virginity.
Marcy Playgrounds Comin Up From Behind begins with a strange game-show-esque ping and is probably the heaviest-rocking selection on the album; it plays in the movie when Phillippe is traipsing through the night en route to blackmail a gay classmate.
Then theres Aimee Manns You Could Make a Killing, and I will posit that this song is borderline impossible to dislike. If youve ever enjoyed the folksy stylings of Aimee Mann, youll like this one. It appears later in the film in accompaniment to Sebastians realization of his remorse.
Bare Jr.s You Blew Me Off is more dated; it sounds like the type of song that would play during a film sequence in which a group of high school football players runs onto the field. Who knows, maybe it was used during Varsity Blues. As for some of the other album throw-aways, Skunk Anansies Secretly isnt a bad track, but it seems out of place with the other mostly pop-heavy selections. Craig Armstrongs and Elizabeth Frasers This Love will make you fall asleep, and Faithless Addictive is a creepy track the mostly spoken verses contrast with a wailing refrain in which the singers gender isnt identifiable. Also, like Bittersweet Symphony, its inclusion is a bit too literal. The track, which contains lyrics such as change around the words that you say to suit me fine, plays during a scene in which Gellar attempts to manipulate Blairs mother.
The soundtrack closes out with Bittersweet Symphony, as does Cruel Intentions. The final third of the movie ventures into a sort of a moralistic territory, which seems an odd shift in tone from the rest of the film; either way, Symphonys pairing with the final scene seems a bit too on the nose. Still, the films denouement is memorable in its own right, and the sweeping shots of Phillippes car being driven into and out of the city serve as bookends to the story. The closing sequence wouldnt be the same without the haunting Symphony. Also, Blair is as haughtily hilarious as always.
Would this movie be nearly so appreciated if it were released today? Not likely. Gellar is well past her Buffy the Vampire Slayer era, and she, along with the rest of the cast save Witherspoon, has ridden out the wave of the late-90s teen flick. (I havent even mentioned that the movie also features Joshua Jackson of Dawsons Creek and future rehab-queen Tara Reid.) Much of the soundtrack, though, still sounds pretty fresh, and thats an accomplishment for something thats been around for 11 years.