Your favorite guilty pleasure movie doesn’t have to be a cinematic masterpiece. It can be embarrassing, weird and problematic.
What is your ultimate guilty pleasure movie?
The go-to movie you can watch and forget the world while quoting every line. You look at it at least once a year and usually alone, because it belongs to you, to a moment in time, to a feeling.
And best of all, it doesn’t even have to be a great movie or a classic of the pop culture canon. It doesn’t have to be that way Casablanca or Star Wars or When Harry Met Sally†
It can be as imbecile as Freddy got fingered or as boring as 27 Dresses or as intoxicating as Jupiter Ascending† Maybe you tell people you were doing a rainy Saturday the godfather trilogy but was actually watching High School Musical† High School Musical 2† High School Musical 3: Senior Year and Sharpay’s fantastic adventure†
It’s fine, it’s your guilty pleasure movie, so it’s okay to embrace the ‘guilty’ part, no matter how embarrassing your choice is.
mine is cruel intentionsthe 1999 adaptation of the 18th-century novel by Pierre Choderlos de Laclos Les Liaisons Dangereuseswho turns the heartless French aristocracy into horny high school students on New York’s Upper East Side.
Filmmaker Roger Kumble took the Laclos’ tale of moral bankruptcy and gives it a different, still-relevant glow. It’s the teenage elite of Manhattan – they’re not allowed to vote or drink yet, but their vast wealth makes them immune to decency, humanity and scruples.
The story of impossibly beautiful step-siblings Kathryn and Sebastian who manipulate their classmates through psychosexual games, cruel intentions was ready for me.
In 1999 I was 14 years old, obsessed with… buffy and Sarah Michelle Gellar – and by association, was in love enough with Ryan Phillippe because he’d been in I know what you did last summer with my favorite vampire slayer (sorry, Faith).
I remember the promos so clearly. Phillippe’s devilish smile was only surpassed by Gellar’s smug acquaintance when she bet her stepbrother he couldn’t seduce the new schoolgirl, accompanied by the notes of Sneaker Pimps’ “6 Underground.”
But there was a problem. When I was 14, the film—with its brutal sex, drugs, and shocking immorality—was considered too much for my youthful, impressionable self. It was minted with an MA15+ rating.
There was an attempt to ‘sneak in’ on the last day of school, thwarted by a belligerent messenger at the now-defunct George St Village cinemas in Sydney. He wouldn’t let us in without the cardboard transportation card issued only to students 15 and older that we borrowed temporarily to buy the tickets.
My friends and I saw She totally is instead in a packed movie theater full of teenagers who should all be in school. Even though Gellar had a cameo in She totally isI hated it and I often wondered if it was because I hated watching this movie instead of what I really wanted.
Two days later, I convinced a 19-year-old family friend to take me, and it was all I wanted. The erotic tete-a-tetes between Kathryn and Sebastian, the way it showed off teenage sexuality, THAT kiss in Central Park. I was still a year away from my first kiss—an awkward rumble in the back of the bus—so everything on the screen was intoxicating.
It may seem relatively chaste now, but this was four months ago american pie and eight years earlier Gossip Girl — and nearly two decades since the era of raunchy teen movies Porky’s and Fast times at Ridgemont High†
It was quite something that cruel intentions not only high school students who talked openly about sex and engaged in it, but also used it to manipulate and gain power. dolly magazine never told us about this.
Not for nothing, when I told my American uncle that cruel intentions was my favorite movie, he was shocked I’d seen it at all, tut-tutting about how inappropriate it was.
A direct-to-video sequel, Cruel Intentions 2was actually a rerun of the first three episodes of a prequel spin-off series that was scrapped because executives thought it was too risqué for TV.
By the time a mate and I made the trip west a week later to the also-defunct Roxy cinemas in Parramatta, where they were known not to check IDs, it had cemented itself for a second viewing as a piece of pop music. . culture that would be with me forever.
I played the soundtrack so many times that the CD jewel case (which I still own) broke into pieces. I’ve scoured every Supre and Valley Girl for something similar to Kathryn’s pure buds. Oscar de la Renta and Donna Karan were not in my budget.
Fast forward to 2022, about four dozen rewatches later, and the cruel intentions musical tours Australia. Is it good? Could be. Kind of. It is much cheesier and taller than its spiky predecessor. It often tends to be parody, but it was also clear that the audience was laughing at it and not about it.
But nostalgia is an incredibly powerful thing, it can take us to a time that we never quite let go. At the State Theatre, on the Sydney leg of Cruel Intentions: The 90s MusicalI was 14 again – deeply obsessed and loving every moment.
The production is a jukebox musical with only a few tracks from the film’s soundtrack, but is packed with 90s pop hits ranging from N’SYNC and Britney to Meredith Brooks and Mandy Moore.
The track listing initially (how dare they mess with it?!), confused me as to why Sixpence None the Richer’s “Kiss Me” was here when it was so strongly associated with She totally isor Paula Cole’s “I Don’t Want to Wait”, which was used as the Dawson’s Creek theme song from season two (I actually preferred Jann Arden’s “Run Like Mad”, sssshhh).
That amalgamation of 90s pop culture nostalgia was exactly why the musical was so exciting. It evoked all the goodwill of another era and drew on more than just the cruel intentions movie.
When the cast broke out on a rendition of The Cardigans’ “Lovefool” (a tiny snippet of which was in the original film), it brought back memories of playing the Romeo+Juliet soundtrack on repeat as the Goo Goo Dolls’ “Iris” flashed the crowd back to City of Angels†
Ditties of Boyz II Men, Ace of Base, No Doubt and Marcy Playground, all seamlessly incorporated into the story and character beats, had the same effect.
But the point of nostalgia is that you have to be honest about what it really was. Was it a better time? And don’t we just remember and save the best moments of each point?
The danger of nostalgia is that it ignores the parts of history we don’t want to remember, but which are essential to understanding who we are today on a personal, local and global level.
For many, the current obsession with the 90s can be partly attributed to the fact that it was a time before 9/11 when the world seemed less scary and uncertain. But the fear of Y2K was no fun, any more than John Howard’s embrace of Pauline Hanson and her racism. And minority groups faced much more overt discrimination.
When I was 14, with raging hormones, dramas at school and at home, my life was not perfect.
And it wasn’t cruel intentions, the film. Not all performances were consistent, some line deliveries were cringe-inducing, there’s a weird editing thing that suggests a few scenes were meant to be in a different order, Sebastian’s hero’s journey isn’t entirely convincing, and some of the sexual politics is definitely problematic.
But if you’re honest about all that, about what triggers that strong dose of nostalgia, and about the ways in which the present also has its highs and lows, then one can slip back into a moment, a feeling, an obsession, stubborn and fun.
Cruel Intentions: The 90s Musical is currently playing in Sydney, followed by Brisbane, Perth, Adelaide and Canberra
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