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Photo: ‘Dangerous Liaisons’
Hollywood is no stranger to remakes. Studios seem to follow the ‘if it ain’t broke’ approach to creating hits; If people liked it the first time, they’re bound to like it again. An interesting aspect of remakes is seeing the way the story evolves over time. Films are often an indicator of trends, both in Hollywood and in society. The types of stories being told, the modernizations of the stories over time, and everything down to the costuming and makeup trends is indicative of the times.
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‘Dangerous Liaisons’ was originally a play, but its real claim to fame is the 1988 film. And for good reason! The film is full of huge names including Glen Close, Michelle Pfeiffer, John Malkovich, and Uma Thurman, and director Stephen Frears’ career isn’t too shabby either. The film is a period drama, a tale of affairs, revolution, and high-ranking status. The new version, Netflix’s remake of the same name, doesn’t continue in the period drama footsteps, instead turning royalty into social media stardom.
‘Dangerous Liaisons’ – Plot Overview
The film follows Celene, who has just moved to Biarritz with her dad following her mother’s death. In search of familial comfort, the pair moves in with Celene’s uncle and her cousin, Charlotte. Almost immediately after moving in, Celene’s dog escapes and makes a dash toward the main road. When a young driver is more concerned with Instagram than the road, Tristan makes a heroic save. Tristan is a well-known social media star and, of course, he just so happens to go to Celene’s new school. So, this is by no means the last the pair sees of each other.
Also attending the school is a Voice finalist, a former child star, a surfing champion, and just about anyone else who could garner an impressive social media following. Tristan and his girlfriend, Vanessa, are the most popular, online and in school. Except, the two aren’t actually together at all. As much of social media does, the couple only exists for likes and attention. In reality, the pair likes to interfere with others’ love lives, eager to shatter the idea of love for as many of their peers as they can.
Of course, Celene is their next victim. Although she’s only seventeen, Celene is engaged, facing long-distance head-on after her move. But that doesn’t faze her, she believes that no distance can break her love. Tristan, however, believes that her love is much easier to break than you’d think. He sets out to break her engagement by wooing Celene, only to ultimately dump her, leaving her heart and her belief in love shattered.
I’ll be frank and say that I did not enjoy ‘Dangerous Liaisons’, but that isn’t to say the film doesn’t have its positives. Before we jump into the drama of high school and social media stardom, the film opens with a melodramatic sequence of the two main characters seemingly on the verge of killing themselves. Now, on its own, this doesn’t sound very positive, however, the sequence is full of billowing shirts, flowing dresses, and dramatic piano music. It’s reminiscent of the original, a nod to the film’s period piece roots.
During this intro sequence, Tristan delivers a monologue about what it means to be elite. He mentions that in the past aristocracy or royal bloodshot someone into high status, another nod to the original film. He then breaks from that train of thought to consider modern status. Recently, high status came from wealth, but that may not be the case anymore. Tristan sums up “today, you can be noble or rich and still be a loser”, so, what gives someone status today? Fame, and lots of it. This monologue is an interesting thesis to the film, a bold statement on what makes you matter in modern society. It both nods at the original and states how it’ll diverge, giving you a taste of what you’re in for in the first five minutes.
Modern social media stardom and pre-Revolution era French aristocracy is an interesting comparison. When you think about it, it makes perfect sense that characters who were once Marquis or members of Parliament would instead be modern social media celebrities. It’s the same sort of attention, public recognition, and notoriety added to the character. However, I just don’t think it was done right. Although we’ve had social media for decades, it still feels like we’re learning how to incorporate it into our more traditional media. Whenever a Tweet or an Instagram story appears on screen it feels unnatural, like it isn’t meant to be there and is interfering with the storytelling, rather than aiding it.
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It doesn’t help at times it felt that the writers had never actually used social media before. Now, I may be too picky here as a Gen Z twenty-something, but the dialogue surrounding social media felt clunky and unnatural. Hearing someone ask their favorite influencer to “stop for a quick story” made me cringe, as I’m near certain that sentence has never been uttered in real life. I do believe that social media-based remakes get more criticism than they deserve, but in this case, it would definitely be better if everyone pocketed the phones for a while.
A Step in the Right Direction
As I stated, I think it’s tricky for writers and directors to naturally incorporate social media into their stories, but social media isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. It’s something we’re going to need to get a handle on somehow, so any attempt is a valuable learning experience. We need to know what works and what doesn’t, we need to at least try. ‘Dangerous Liaisons’ took risks, and even if there wasn’t a great deal of reward, I applaud the risk-taking nonetheless.
Cast & Crew
Cast: Paola Locatelli, Simon Rérolle, Ella Pellegrini, Héloïse Janjaud
Writer: Rachel Suissa | Director: Rachel Suissa |
By Lara Glennon
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Lara Glennon is an aspiring screenwriter looking to share her love and passion for all things film and television. She aims to use her writing to shine a light on artists who are working to make change, both in media and in the world. The Hollywood Insider’s focus on substance over gossip is perfect for Lara, as she wants to highlight the good in the world and those who create it. She enjoys spending her time creating and consuming art, searching for unique voices and ideas in media.