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‘Dangerous Liaisons’ review: A Starz series version ratchets up the sexual politics while dragging out the story


For an 18th-century French novel, “Les Liaisons Dangereuses” definitely received round, inspiring a play, the flicks “Harmful Liaisons” and “Valmont” in 1988 and ’89, respectively, and the twisted teen variant “Merciless Intentions.” Now comes a Starz sequence prequel, “Dangerous Liaisons,” which ratchets up the intercourse whereas dragging out (and out and out) the story.

Though the present options lesser-known Australian leads in Nicholas Denton as Valmont, the roguish seductor, and Alice Englert (the daughter of acclaimed director Jane Campion) as Camille, his preliminary love and eventual foe, they’re surrounded by higher-profile gamers in supporting and in some situations short-lived roles. That solid consists of “Phantom Thread’s” Lesley Manville and “Sport of Thrones” alumni Carice Van Houten, Michael McElhatton and Tom Wlaschiha.

Set in Paris through the 1700s, the present once more lustily captures a time the place sexual adventures of every kind have been frequent but additionally doubtlessly ruinous if uncovered, and within the case of Valmont, deftly wielded like weapons of conflict as instruments of blackmail.

Camille learns that the laborious means earlier than being taken below the wing of the rich Marquise de Merteuil (Manville), who counsels her to study from the older lady’s errors, urging her to “Avenge our intercourse,” and that on this iteration of the battle of the sexes, the stakes are “Conquer, or die.”

Tailored by author/producer Harriet Warner (“Name the Midwife”), for all its juicy bits the episodic format blunts the momentum of the story. Certainly, it’s not till the third episode that the plot actually begins to kick in, with Camille difficult Valmont to woo the seemingly chaste and unmovable Jacqueline de Montrachet (Van Houten) – calling her “The one lady in Paris you possibly can’t seduce” – for motives that can become visible later.

Interval melodrama has grow to be a fertile subject, which seems to be a double-edged sword. Handsomely mounted, it’s however straightforward to dismiss “Harmful Liaisons” (particularly for many who lack a previous funding within the property) as being a considerably edgier model of “Bridgerton” or less-comedic spin on “The Great,” each exhibits that scratch comparable itches.

In contrast, anybody with a keenness for the flicks (each the Glenn Shut/John Malkovich and Annette Bening/Colin Firth pairings are well worth the time), there’s a pallid high quality to this rendition, much less within the steaminess of the conditions than the extended means they’re structured, even with stunning twists alongside the best way.

Starz has wrung a good quantity of mileage out of costume dramas, with “The Serpent Queen” as the newest instance. In a vote of confidence, the community has already renewed “Harmful Liaisons” for a second season upfront of its premiere, so these hoping for the finality {that a} restricted sequence may need offered, be forewarned.

Given the identifiable title and worldwide enchantment, there’s maybe a bit much less danger in playing upon this idea, with its premium-TV sexuality filtered via the prism of 18th-century decadence.

That mentioned, not every little thing is worthy of its personal cinematic universe. And whereas the principals’ said selections may be “conquer or die,” the sequence’ web impact lands someplace within the less-than-wholly-satisfying realm in between.

“Harmful Liaisons” premieres November 6 at 8 p.m. ET on Starz.

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