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First published in 1782, Pierre Choderlos de Laclos’s wicked romp of a novel, “Dangerous Liaisons,” requires only a light airbrush to be convincingly transplanted to the halls of a modern-day high school where teenagers wield sex, power and status like weapons. Nevertheless, the director Rachel Suissa runs Laclos’s story through a heavy Instagram filter in this outlandish, flimsy adaptation.

Tristan (Simon Rérolle) and Vanessa (Ella Pellegrini) are a clout-seeking power couple at Victor Hugo High School in Biarritz, a coastal town in Southern France. He’s a rapper and a champion surfer; she’s a fading child star. Together, these performative lovebirds share 10 million social media followers — and a pact to seduce and destroy a new student, Célène (Paola Locatelli), a tech celibate who lords her Luddite superiority over her shallow classmates by bringing a Proust hardback to a pool party. Not that they care. “You can be noble or rich and still be a loser,” Tristan says, declaring the thesis of this update. “Today, it’s all about fame.”

Suissa flaunts a fair amount of the directorial moxie needed to pull off her ecstasy-pill-fueled screenplay, which she wrote with the collaboration of Slimane-Baptiste Berhoun. The film’s energy is most colorful in its corners, where minor characters dance in blue mohawks and romp around make-out parties dressed like mermaids and nuns. The hilarious Héloïse Janjaud, playing a gawky student who longs to transform into a leather-clad vamp, nearly powers it all by herself. However, if this movie wants to compete with the erotic palpitations and moral decay of “Cruel Intentions,” the 1999 teen-drama adaptation of Laclos’s novel, it really needs more sleaze from Rérolle: Instead of transforming from cad to honest lover, his character merely shifts from chill to cool, throwing cold water on the lust triangle as its emotional turbulence starts to roil.

Playing off the novel’s epistolary structure, Suissa has the high schoolers spout their agonies in livestreamed monologues. It’s a clever idea, but in execution the film’s focus on app-fueled drama reduces key moments to people staring at their phones.

Dangerous Liaisons
Not rated. In French, with subtitles. Running time: 1 hour 49 minutes. Watch on Netflix.

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