Friday, July 8, 2022

Dangerous Liaisons: Movie Review

A stylish but messy mash-up.
With a plot similar to She’s All That, Dangerous Liaisons is centered on Célène (Paola Locatelli) a teen girl new to the rich elite of Biarritz, France – a very wealthy coastal town in Southwestern France on the Bay of Biscay. A world where rich teen socialite social media influencers rule the town and play games where the queen bee bets the surf champion Tristan (Simon Rérolle) that he can get Célène to fall in love with him and then destroy her life just for the fun of it.   2022

Directed by: Rachel Suissa

Screenplay by: Rachel Suissa
Based on the novel by Choderlos de Laclos

Starring: Paola Locatelli, Simon Rérolle

And here’s the odd part, it’s not quite as trashy as it sounds. It takes 90s and 2000s teen comedies and combines it with a Victorian-styled romance which keeps the film off-kilter and the audience is no longer sure exactly where it’s headed. It's beautifully filmed on location in Biarritz, France – everything is very richly photographed in perfect lighting and capturing the lives of the rich and bored. A lot of modern music backdropping each scene. It’s actually hard to look away; a very vibrantly crafted film.

In addition to “les liaisons dangereuses” affairs that are expected with a remake of the novel, the teens are currently putting on a production of The Princess of Montpensier – a modern-esque update. Turn the 1500s set tale of nobility and affairs into rap musical and styling that more accurately fits the Victorian era that the original Dangerous Liaisons is from. There’s definitely a Victorian era romance motif which the film is throwing in. The teens go to Victor Hugo high school, Célène’s dog is named Bolzac after the 1800s French novelist, and Célène is reading Proust.

Most notably it’s how love and sex are handled in a pervasive theme that seems like a Victorian era romance. Célène is considered a virtuous girl – engaged at age 17 (and yes this is 2022) and saving herself for marriage. The teens want to destroy her virtuosity while simultaneously presenting sex as the most desired act and holding up her values as the paramount for society. If you thought this was She’s All That at the beginning, it’s Easy A by act three (a take on The Scarlett Letter, another 1800s novel of puritan romance and social shaming). Vanessa the social media it girl is orchestrating the downfall of everybody who isn’t her by setting up affairs. And it’s really easy to pull off The Scarlett Letter type public shaming in 2022 when everybody has phones and can upload to Instragram with one click.

The influences of Dangerous Liaisons are numerous. On one hand, it helps give the film a different feel despite being a literal remake of a novel that’s been remade over a dozen times and the teen angle isn’t anything new. However, by the end, it goes way too big and can’t balance the drama. It ends with a dumbed-down social media message from something like Mainstream. There are a lot of conflicting tones it’s trying to balance and it all just crashes in the end.