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Pretty Persuasion
3.5/5
R E V I E W   B Y   R I C H   C L I N E dir Marcos Siega
scr Skander Halim
with Evan Rachel Wood, Jane Krakowski, Ron Livingston, James Woods, Elisabeth Harnois, Adi Schnall, Stark Sands, Mike Erwin, Danny Comden, Josh Zuckerman, Selma Blair, Jaime King
release US 12.Aug.05,
UK 23.Jun.06
05/US Goldwyn 1h50

Girls on film: Wood and Kakowski

wood krakowski woods

SUNDANCE FILM FEST

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Pretty Persuasion There's a vicious undercurrent to this comedy, giving a jab of both sharp satire and jagged emotion. Solid performances make it work, even if the film seems slightly undernourished.

Kimberly Joyce (Wood) is an ambitious, intelligent 15-year-old who seems to be pretty much in control of her posh Beverly Hills school. Her blustering, prejudiced dad (Woods) and trophy stepmum (King) are somewhat oblivious to her scheming ways. Even though her friends (Harnois and Schnall) are more aware, they join her to accuse their English teacher (Livingston) of abusing them. As a TV journalist (Krakowski) tries to make a name for herself with the case, we can tell it's all going to get ugly.

Siega uses a slightly corny structure, with on screen titles, to jump back and forth within the story, giving us key information when he feels like it. In this sense, he's even more manipulative than Kimberly. The tactic backfires, leaving film feeling contrived and shallow, even though it's loaded with bracingly astute commentary on racial and sexual issues.

The performances are the key, and the entire cast hits exactly the right notes. Wood is remarkable as always, with a dry, blackly funny but internally tragic turn as a girl who's just too smart and confident for her own good. And Krakowski is her perfect foil, a slightly sunnier version of the same character a decade or so later. While Woods really goes for it in the film's hilarious scene-chewing role. Compared to them, everyone else seems dull and helpless, which of course is exactly how they should be.

The Election-meets-Dangerous Liaisons script is packed with razor-sharp interaction between characters who are all trying to one-up each other, and not always in the most expected ways. Much of this is subtle and extremely intelligent--and wickedly entertaining for a film audience. Other things are a little more obvious, such as the side plot involving a kid who goes on a shooting spree in a neighbouring Bel Air school, while what Kimberly's doing is just as deadly, really. But it's still a compelling point to make.

cert 18 strong themes, language, sexuality 31.May.06

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2006 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall
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