Paris, 1793, the public is in revolt, the bomb of the revolution is about to explode. Camille (Alice Englert) and Valmont (Nicholas Denton) do not care about the trends of the era, they are young, in love and absorbed in each other’s company. Camilla is a courtesan forced to pay a debt to a brothel owner, and her lover is a simple cartographer who has the opportunity to touch the high society thanks to her pleasant appearance and many rich mistresses. One of them is the Marquise de Merteuil (Leslie Manville) – it is to her that Camille turns for help when she discovers a bunch of letters of a romantic nature in Valmont. Two deceived heroines join forces and decide to take revenge not only on the common ex-boyfriend, but on the entire patriarchy on behalf of women.
The French novel of the 18th century is one of the favorite texts of filmmakers, which has been transferred to the screen more than once. The most famous adaptations are the Oscar-winning film by Stephen Frears and the modernized version of Cruel Intentions. Formally, the Starz series is more of a prequel to the original story, since much attention is paid to the connection between Camille and Valmont, when they were still young and full of hope for a joint future. Perhaps such a move does not benefit the series. A long exposure dulls the necessary dynamics and intrigue. The first two episodes are the slow rocking of the boat, which not every viewer is destined to endure. After all, the famous line with a dispute between old lovers will come only after an odyssey of sorting out relationships and erotic adventures of the main womanizer of Paris.
Dangerous Liaisons rests on three pillars: sex, gossip and feminism. If the first two, contrary to expectations, do not add shine to the show, then the third sometimes saves the plot from a sluggish narrative. Camille is the central figure, a woman deprived of her freedom and hungry for power. The only way for her to get out of the slums is to use her talent as a blackmailer and manipulate the aristocrats. Watching the nascent friendship and mentoring relationship between two strong characters, Alice Englert and Leslie Manville (she’s criminally scarce here), is one of the few pleasures the show has to offer.
Historical melodramas have become fertile ground for streaming services. Directors add a drop of modern ideas to past centuries, covers of familiar hits and lure spectators who are not indifferent to chic, gloss and dancing at the ball into the net. Dangerous Liaisons has plenty of tricks up its sleeve: 18th-century opulent nobility, rising winds of change, and impeccable actors who swear eternal love around every corner. But, unfortunately, one cannot go far on nostalgia for the past, and all this turns out to be too little to repeat the success of the same Bridgertons.