Dangerous Liaisons Reviews
Dangerous Liaisons is surely not my kind of film. The general basis of the film seems to be that it is a costume drama, and that is one of my significantly lesser preferred genres in the world of cinema. I am always open to new films, but the genre that Dangerous Liaisons rests on is not one which grasps me. As a result of that, the film did not end up being much better than I could have hoped. I admired many qualities about the film such as its language and its style, but the story itself did not grasp me all that much.
For the screenplay to be adapted from an 18th century French novel and yet still maintain the intelligent drama, characters and humour of the source material in a 20th century English adaptation is thoroughly impressive and it gives the film a strong basis. The characters in the film present a lot of potential to the cast who really manage to take it in a direction which capitalises on their talents, but the story itself just did not do the job for me.
In sticking to its theatrical roots, the scale of Dangerous Liaisons is very small in scale. In a strange contrast to this, there are a lot of characters to keep up with in the story who are all key in relevance. They cross with the political nature of the film to tell a complicated story of manipulation and sex, but this is brought down by the fact that the film fails to truly establish its setting with enough depth. It is easy to forget the setting of the tale due to the fact that the language is fluently written English dialect, even if the characters still maintain their original French names. I often forgot about this and just tried to enjoy the story, but I found it to be a dull and melodramatic one which did not grasp me or even get me caught up in the seductive nature of the story. Perhaps what I was feeling was a sense of Hollywood whitewashing in the fact that Dangerous Liaisons attempted to tell a French story with an English language cast and production team. I felt as if this removed the passion of the story, particularly considering the seductive nature of the French language which failed to generate the same feeling in the English language. Perhaps fans of the source material can admire this adaptation for staying true to the source material and remaining a stylish costume drama, but as I have never read into the material and am not the biggest fan of the genre it just fails to do the job for me.
Though the narrative in Dangerous Liaisons failed to grasp me, I will admit that I enjoyed the directorial work of Stephen Frears. Clearly a man with a passion for imagery, Stephen Frears takes the story of Dangerous Liaisons and brings it to colourful life. The costumes in the film are beautifully detailed and the production design follows closely while it is all revealed against the backdrop of beautiful scenery. But on a more narrative driven level, the cast really stand out.
Glenn Close leads Dangerous Liaisons very well. Capturing a strong level of sophistication and a subtle sense of passion, Glenn Close takes on a leading role in Dangerous Liaisons and works her own charm really well into the part. She never steps out of character in a physical sense and plays with her emotions nicely, but best of all her line delivery is very smooth without neglecting the key emotional relevance of everything within it. Glenn Close does not get melodramatic in her role, she remains restrained but clearly talented and so her efforts are impossible to ignore in Dangerous Liaisons.
It is John Malkovich that truly dominates however. Though not without his handsome and likable charms, John Malkovich captivates viewers in Dangerous Liaisons by being so cleverly manipulative both with the character and generally in the character. His line delivery is full of strong tenacity over the character and even over the audience as he grasps the attention of viewers whenever he is on screen. Lost deep in the character, John Malkovich shares a powerful chemistry with every other actor in Dangerous Liaisons and delivers yet another powerful performance which matches the theatrical nature of the tale.
Michelle Pfeiffer is also on par. Despite being much younger than her fellow cast members, she stands out as one of the best actors to have on board due to her ability to portray a sense of youthful innocence through her natural sense of beauty. Her spirit and passion for the part is admirable and she plays it in a similarly restrained manner to Glenn Close yet managing to capture a stonger sense of drama in the character. Michelle Pfeiffer is a perfect casting decision for Dangerous Liaisons with a passionate spirit that burns through the film from start to finish.
Uma Thurman delivers a strikingly memorable performance. From 6 years before her Academy Award nominated breakthrough performance in Pulp Fiction, Uma Thurman delivers a thoroughly powerful performance in Dangerous Liaisons. Caught up in the themes of innocence and sexuality of the film, Uma Thurman plays a character indifferent to the world that her character becomes exposed to as the narrative unfolds. She keeps up with the material very well and expresses a fearless dedication to her role which would prove to be one of her greatest assets in the years to come. Uma Thurman delivers in Dangerous Liaisons and her appearance is one of her most memorable in her long career.
So Dangerous Liaisons has a screenplay with strong dialogue, a powerful cast and a sense of style. Unfortunately, its inability to transcend the limitations of a basic costume drama make the fact that it is a whitewashed Hollywood adaptation of a French story of seduction clearly a problem.