Netflix’ modern retelling of Dangerous romances is all style and offers little substance to explain their menacing actions.
This review of Dangerous Liaisons (2022) on Netflix is spoiler-free.
Dangerous romances (2022) is a modern retelling of the 18th-century French novel Les Liaisons Dangereuses by Pierre Choderlos de Laclos. Yes, the retelling is in high school, which adds striking similarities and atmosphere Cruel intentions. There is a simple explanation for this. This film was an adaptation of de Laclos’ work or had more in common with Stephen Frears’ addictive 1999 film. The simple fact is that playwrights and studio heads have been rewriting this work for nearly 233 years. Of course, we all know that we now live in a world of TikTok and Instagram. The story never reached its target audience until social media was born.
Director Rachel Suissa, who co-wrote the screenplay with writer Slimane-Baptiste Berhoun, tries to keep the story’s signature themes of manipulation, revenge, guilt, ethics, and society and class intact. You may notice that the script substitutes mental health aspects for the importance of religion. For example, Celene (played by French actor and social media sensation Paolo Locatelli) arrives in the elegant seaside town of Biarritz in southern France. She meets Tristan (Simon Rerolle), who saves her dog. He seems like a nice guy. So much so that she reveals her mother has died and her father is suffering from a crippling depression. When she meets him, she is perplexed by him. He can’t decide if he’s a nice guy trying to act like an idiot or an idiot trying to act like a nice guy.
It seems like Tristan has the potential to be a good guy, but is caught up in childish, immature games. You know how rich children are with too much freedom and time. Will they start expanding belief in their right to manipulation as a superpower? You got that right because Vanessa is still licking her wounds. Why? She loses a bet against Tristan because she can’t sleep with a principal. She lost her car to Tristan, poor thing. To challenge him, Vanessa bets Tristan that he can’t sleep with the newly arrived and pure Celene. If he can’t, she gets the beach house.
These two are obsessed with what they can’t have. And the allure of Vanessa adding imperfections to a virtuous, virginal newcomer is what she lives for. Tristan must acquire things he cannot have. A challenge, if you will, because Celene is engaged at the age of 17 to her fiancé Pierre, who lives abroad. You can argue she made it up herself — who brings a classic novel to a rich kid’s pool party where sex is the appetizer?
Part of me admired the adaptation here – especially with influencer themes creating some very entertaining and comedic moments. (When the two lovebirds meet, Tristan saves her pooch because a mindless teenager is talking directly to her phone while she drives to upload what I can only assume is an Instagram story). Also, it’s wise to explain the hierarchy of social acceptance in terms of the number of followers someone has. Set in France, in a world of social media darlings living in their cruel, boundless bubble, the story is a natural way of telling a tale of teenagers who either have no conscience or have discovered they do could have one.
Of course, the film is beautiful to watch. There are lovely women and handsome men and you can hardly find better locations to shoot a film with a view of the southern French coast. The acting here, however, ranges from laid-back to over-the-top nonsense. Above all, Rerolle’s Tristan never creates an emotional range. While Heloise Janjaud, who plays Celene’s cousin Charlotte, is too maniacally obsessive to really enjoy or push this updated version Dangerous romances into a worthy guilty pleasure. The script also uses the old crutch to explain why it’s smart enough to point out your own performance, and using the framework of the art making like a music production is all anyone can relate to expressing emotion.
And that’s the problem with shows and films trying to translate that work into the present day. Rarely is anyone as pure and virtuous as Celene, and none as mean as all villains. Damn I’m sure The girl from PlainviewAt one point she felt horrible because of her inherent evil moments. These teenagers socialize and learn how their actions affect others. Here some characters are three-dimensional or offer redeeming qualities.
This modern retelling of Dangerous romances is all style and offers no substance to explain their menacing actions. This is nothing more than a social media update from Cruel intentions rather than the classic source material.
You can stream Dangerous Liaisons (2022) exclusively on Netflix.