Others are more questionable. "O" is an Othello retelling that centers around basketball, because... black people do basketball, I guess. This is obviously a dicey topic, as race always is, and as a white person I'm not really qualified to talk about it (let me know if you have any good links, by the way, so I can signal boost).
The movie "O", however, takes place now and focuses on the revenge aspect of the plot. This means that instead of Othello being driven mad by his unattainable desire for approval, Othello (Odin) is just... a good basketball player. At a disadvantage in society yes, but he's not driven mad by Iago (Hugo) in this version: from the very first time he doubts Desi (hey Julia Stiles, were you in all of these movies?), he gets aggressive. It's jealousy alone (mostly brought on by his own mind) that drives him to get violent with Desi multiple times.
In a society where young black men are often stereotyped as mindlessly violent, I can't be comfortable with this interpretation. The movie wants us to believe both that Odin is a good person and that his behavior escalates to domestic violence with barely any provocation. Nope nope nope nope nope.
But I think the very least appropriate for a teen remake was Dangerous Liaisons, a French book/play/movie about bored aristocrats.
In its original form, it was an epistolary novel that explored the dark side of the human spirit through the lens of petty malice. Vicomte de Valmont and Marquise de Merteiul are 40-somethings with nothing better to do than scheme to wreck the people around them - and each other. I think its best interpretation was probably the 1989 film starring Glenn Close and John Malkovich.
Its worst interpretation was the 1999 teen remake Cruel Intentions, about rich high schoolers living on New York's Upper Fashionable Side.
|Well this looks like a masterpiece of subtlety.|
|Thanks for that clarification.|
And this is what's wrong with this adaptation: you cannot imbue the actions of modern-day teenagers with the same weight and significance as those of 40-something pre-French Revolution aristocrats. You just can't. None of this means anything, because Sebastian doesn't have a lifetime of debauchery behind him, and Kathryn doesn't have the shackles of a woman's role in the late 1700s.
In Cruel Intentions, Kathryn does mean things because EVIL. In the source material, it's implied that Kathryn's vindictive nature is the result of a lifetime of confinement, and the only way her intellect and desire for power can be satisfied is by manipulating the lives of those around her.
In Cruel Intentions, Sebastian is a sensitive soul with a journal and acquisitive nature. In the source material, Valmont is a bored womanizer dulled to excitement by a lifetime of debauchery - it's significant that there, his downfall comes from his own vanity rather than concern for Annette, which he's made himself all but incapable of.
Dangerous Liaisons is about two similar minds driving themselves and each other to an inevitable destruction, spreading wreckage everywhere they pass. Cruel Intentions kind of isn't - it really wants us to feel for poor woobie Sebastian, which of course negates the entire point of the story. If Kathryn is the sole player pulling the strings, then it's just a story about an unfortunate guy getting drawn into the snare of an evil slore.
The irritating thing is, this movie didn't have to be bad. While you couldn't do an exact remake into teenagerland, it would have been so very easy to make a movie about two young rich people who want opposite things (say, they both want the same girl/boy), and how after a lifetime of "yes" they can't comprehend the word "no", and the horrific lengths they go to in order to maintain the status quo of getting anything they want.
Aside from the plot stuff, on a mechanics level this movie is just not very good. I think the people making it did put in some effort, but the buck must have stopped at the casting director, because wow do these performances fall flat. Evil has never looked good on Sarah Michelle Gellar (love her, but she has all the range of a toddler on a kazoo), Ryan Phillippe seems to think that cutting. off. every. word. like. this. is. acting, and Reese Witherspoon barely even bothered to show up. Witherspoon in particular is so mind-numbingly personality-void that I... zzz... sorry, slipped into that dang coma again.
Also, in the original, the people around Valmont and Merteiul suffer for V&M's sins. In this, pretty much everything is happy ever after except for the original two. Reese even drives off in Sebastian's car all hair-blowing-free-in-the-wind. So I guess the moral is that seducing doomed rich jerks = free car.
|Wait... when the hell did you get that?! What, did he write|
his will on the ER intake form?
|Because unlike the rest of you|
plebes, I have TASTE.