John Malkovich: object of desire? Talk about playing against type. As the Vicomte Sebastien de Valmont in 18th Century France, he is challenged by the Marquise Isabelle de Merteuil (Glenn Close) to deflower Uma Thurman’s virginal bride-to-be Cecile. Deeming the task too easy, he instead chooses to bed Michelle Pfeiffer’s Madame de Tourvel, a virtuous, devout, happily married woman staying with the Vicomte’s aunt. The Marquise then drafts in Keanu Reeves’ Danceny to woo Cecile instead. If the plot sounds familiar, it’s because it was adapted more recently (and poorly) in the modern-set Cruel Intentions, which succeeded in dumbing down the many deceits and allegiances in the plot, but retains the deeply unlikable protagonists, too rich for their own good and revelling in destroying the lives of those around them.
More erotic than most period dramas, with necklines set to plunging and cleavages set to stun, this sees more bedhopping than a season of Desperate Housewives. Malkovich is on excellent form as the callous, vain and calculating lothario, deemed “conspicuously charming” and Close walks the line between on/off romance and hardnosed bitch, but every time Keanu opens his mouth you get the feeling Bill and Ted got their time travelling phone booth stuck in the reign of Louis XV, so thick and distracting is the slacker dude lilt he so desperately tries to hide.
Choose life 5/10