(Review originally written at 9 September 2006)
Although this movie is always everywhere credited as a drama/romance, I regarded this movie as an highly amusing 'dark' comedy, with subtle humor and characters. It of course is not the sort of movie that makes you laugh out loud but it's the sort of movie that amuses you throughout its entire running time. I like to compare this movie and its style a bit to the Stanley Kubrick movie "Barry Lyndon".
The movie has a simple story, set in the late 18th century France, about two rich and above all bored aristocrats who take pleasure in hurting other persons, out of the high circles of society, feelings and setting persons up against each other. They do this mostly by seduction which provides this movie with a most of the time overly present atmosphere of sexual tension and eroticism. The story isn't that complicated but it is made out to look complicated by the unusual and unpredictable characters and the typical old fashioned dialog. It takes a good storyteller to still tell a story like this, amusing and likable enough but above all also understandable enough. Luckilly director Stephen Frears is a more than good storyteller. It makes "Dangerous Liaisons" an original and always amusing movie to watch over and over again. That's also why I think that this movie should have won an Oscar for best directing rather than for best adapted screenplay. Strangely enough the movie was nominated for best movie but not even for best director. Stephen Frears personally deserved some more credit for this movie.
The movie is extremely well cast and all of the actors deliver a fine and effective performance. All of the actors deliver the difficult dialog in a fine- but above all, believable way. Actors that really stand out in this movie are Glenn Close, who also received an Oscar nomination and John Malkovich who plays his character exactly the right way; Dry, convincing as a good kind-heated person who falls truly in love but above all also as a cold-hearted brute, who enjoys hurting other persons feelings but not cold-hearted enough to make us completely hate him, or not care about his character's faith. He plays his character exactly right but it of course is also thanks to Stephen Frears that his character works out the way he does. It's mainly thanks to Malkovich's character, since he is the character that mostly carries the movie, that the movie and its story work out so well. Also really great and impressive in her role was the then still teenager Uma Thurman, in one of her earliest and perhaps also heaviest roles. She also looks truly beautiful in her role and I'm not only saying this because of her 'nude' scene in this movie. Other well known actors in this movie are Michelle Pfeiffer, who also got nominated for an Oscar and Keanu Reeves, from the period when he still mostly starred in comedies. He wasn't too impressive in this movie but it still was sort of fun to see him in a role and movie like this.
Besides the acting the most powerful and effective element of the movie is its visual look. The movie is visually a delight, with some impressive looking costumes (also an Oscar win for that.) and some marvelous cinematography. This and also most of its other visual elements, certainly help to make the story and characters work out as good as they did.
I don't really see this movie as a classic (yet) or an essential must-see. It's not quite impressive or provoking enough for that but it comes really close. Visually this movie is definitely perfect though. When you watch this movie you'll definitely won't regret it.