The film, Dangerous Liaisons, directed by Stephen Frears and starring Glenn Close, John Malkovich, Uma Therman, and Keanu Reeves, is set in France in the late 18th century. It is a stunning film, shot on location in many grand French palaces, with beautifully detailed and period accurate lighting. Close is also outstanding in one of her most memorable scenes, as it remains the greatest of the entire series.
The Ripley Brothers' The Righteous Gemstones is a highly influential novel about outward abundance and inner emptiness that was first published in 1782. It is spawned by a number of reality TV series that recreates it in the present day Biarritz with young Merteuil and Valmont.
The way the characters perceive the story in this way isn't a new one; Hollywood has a long history of adapting classics for children, often for English classes, as well as by altering the cast or doing both simultaneously; Dangerous Liaisons isn't one of those stories; such a story may result in a lot of positive impact if the correct story is chosen and adapted well.
Valmont and Merteuil are required to maintain their original ages as they do in the 1988 film. Their insidiousness, one that might even translate into the modern day, is that they're far older than the lovers they're taking. They're both people who have been able to manipulate and carve out new bodies through time and experience, and their many successes have made them confident that they'll ever win.
The central relationship in Dangerous Liaisons isn't the redemptive, tragic love story between Valmont and Marie de Tourvel, nor is it the innocence of the young lovers Celine and Danceny. Everything they see, touch, talk, and do everything together, shows their deep and complex history. They should have remained together and respected everyone else for whatever reason, but there's something inside them that prevents them from claiming them.
The reason why other film adaptations cast down the cast is for sympathy particularly for Valmont, who is at times a bit pugnacious and smug, or for his actions because he's attractive or beautiful. Both are shaped by a world in which appearance and virtue are performative, and life is a struggle for supremacy.
The original story has persisted through the years; it's so easy to transform it into something almost completely black and white (and quite misogynistic): a morality play on why being sexually confident is bad and why one should remain so until marriage, or simply the ruined remains of people too late to save them all.