The big picture
- Reese Witherspoon’s portrayal of Annette in Cruel intentions is a far cry from the innocent role she often plays, displaying a quiet conviction and confidence.
- Witherspoon’s character Annette balances kindness with integrity, disarming the manipulative Sebastian with her honesty and ultimately winning him over.
- Annette’s principled actions disrupt Kathryn and Sebastian’s cold-hearted nature and underscore Witherspoon’s refreshing performance that combines innocence with empowerment.
Reese Witherspoon is known for her bubbly and spirited roles, but one particular performance has been completely overlooked over the years. Her role as Annette in the 1999 cult hit Cruel intentions has surprising nuance and depth in a film that cynically showcases Kathryn’s evil step-siblings (Sarah Michelle Gellar) and Sebastian (Ryan Phillippe), as they make cruel bets to exploit and abuse the people around them for their own pleasure. Based on the novel Les Liaisons Dangereuses from Choderlos De Laclosand because of a TV reboot on Amazon Prime Video, Cruel intentions may follow Kathryn and Sebastian’s unholy plans, but Witherspoon as Annette provides a sunny yet grounded breath of fresh air. Before The Morning Showis the third season, which also stars Witherspoon Jennifer AnistonHere’s why we loved the diverse actor in the fan-favorite ’90s film.
Reese isn’t just an innocent face in “Cruel Intentions”
Image via Sony Pictures Releasing
Yes, there’s no denying that Reese Witherspoon is bright-eyed and fresh-faced Cruel intentions, which was one of her previous roles as a younger actress. But here she is no simpleton and portrays Annette with calm conviction and confidence. This leads to the underrated character in this scandalous teen thriller winning over unsuspecting serial womanizer Sebastian, who has been tasked with seducing her as part of his bet with Kathryn. From the beginning she is familiar with Sebastian’s manners, repeatedly expresses reservations and stands up for herself when necessary. Fortunately, she is not easily manipulated and confidently responds to his clever assertions. It’s refreshing to witness such a confident young female character, and this is carried with ease by Witherspoon, who as Annette responds calmly and deftly to Sebastian’s repeated insolence.
In addition, Annette clearly rejects Sebastian’s untruths, but has nothing against indulging in a romance or becoming intimate. Witherspoon presents a fully formed character who is willing to take risks while remaining completely herself. Witherspoon is charming in this role, walking the line between distrust of Sebastian and hope for romance.
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Kindness is key for Witherspoon’s Annette
Image via Sony Pictures Releasing
Despite the character’s steadfastness towards Sebastian, it is her disarming kindness and authenticity that ultimately wins Sebastian over. Reese Witherspoon’s embodiment of Annette’s gentleness without being saccharine – and kindness without being self-righteous or boring – fleshes out a layered and well-rounded character while making her extremely likeable to audiences. Witherspoon gives a refreshingly sincere portrayal of Annette, who gives Sebastian the courtesy and respect he largely doesn’t deserve. She makes it believable that Annette would give the notorious Sebastian, whose terrible reputation preceded him, a chance. While she never plays it naive, her character is always hopeful while remaining honest with Sebastian and inviting him to be truly vulnerable for the first time. Witherspoon’s bubbly and trusting performance is the necessary antidote to Sebastian and Kathryn’s cynical manipulation of those around them, giving the film its soul and moral compass.
At the end of the film, Sebastian has a change of heart and decides to tell Annette the truth by giving her a diary that contains his and Kathryn’s darkest secrets and shadiest plans. He then completely secures his salvation by heroically sacrificing himself for Annette in oncoming traffic. While Sebastian has now become a martyr, Kathryn maintains her corrupt, bitter and sexually manipulative ways. To combat this, Annette takes justice into her own hands and prints copies of Sebastian’s diary. During their exchange in the girls’ bathroom before this final reveal, Witherspoon delivers a cool and collected performance, her character Kathryn not yet revealing what she knows as she lets the audience in on her plan. Her justice is quick, precise and clean in its execution and proves to be as straightforward as her personality.
Witherspoon’s performance is refreshing for a female character, balancing innocence with empowerment and kindness with integrity. Annette’s principled actions throughout the film derail Kathryn and Sebastian’s cold-hearted lifestyle and close the film with her uniquely clear view of morality and strong self-confidence. It’s hard to imagine that this role could be filled so effectively without Witherspoon’s invigoratingly progressive interpretation, which certainly makes it her most underrated film achievement.
Source : collider.com