Milos Forman’s meticulously produced Valmont is an extremely well-acted period piece that suffers from stately pacing and lack of dramatic high points.
Plot of Choderlos de Laclos’ 1782 novel is quite familiar due to Stephen Frears’ 1988 hit film, Dangerous Liaisons, from Christopher Hampton’s 1987 play. Forman has met the challenge of breathing new life into the material, but key plot twists and revelations are robbed of their novelty.
Basic story revolves around a bet by two 18th-century French aristocrats, Valmont (Colin Firth) and his old flame Marquise de Merteuil (Annette Bening). She wants Valmont to seduce 15-year-old Cecile (Fairuza Balk) to cuckold Cecile’s fiance, Gercourt (Jeffrey Jones), who is Merteuil’s unfaithful lover.
Valmont counters with the bet that he can bed timid married lady Madame de Tourvel (Meg Tilly). If he wins Merteuil must submit to his lust as well.
What keeps the film interesting, if not riveting, is the generally on target casting and resulting topnotch interpretations.