This lavish retelling of "Les Liaisons Dangereuses" stars Annette Benning as the Marquise de Merteuil, a nasty aristocrat who delights in manipulating those around her. She is outraged when her lover makes plans to marry the young and virtuous Cecile (who is in love with her music teacher), so she engages the services of the notorious playboy the Vicomte de Valmont to cuckold him. Before he can do it, however, Valmont falls in love with a proper, married woman, Madame de Tourvel. Learning of this, Merteuil bets Valmont that he can't bed Tourvel, and Valmont happily takes up the challenge.
The plot was so complex that I needed a scorecard to keep up with who was doing what to whom and why. All of the action swirls around Benning's character, Merteuil. She's malicious enough, but her American accent detracts from her character. In fact, the array of American and British accents and their 21st century delivery spoil the illusion that the story is set in 18th century France. Colin Firth as Valmont is definite eye-candy but not nearly lecherous enough; he's boyish and pitiable instead of cunning and ruthless. Meg Tilley (Tourvel), an and Henry Thomas (the music teacher) are unbelievably bland and out of place in a period piece.
On the plus side, the Oscar-nominated costumes are breathtakingly opulent and the sets and locations are flawless. It's the actors that keep the movie from being really good; they're more common than genteel and I didn't believe any of them.