Pretty Persuasion (18)

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The ViewLondon Review

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Review byMatthew Turner21/06/2006

Four out of Five stars
Running time: 110 mins

Enjoyably bitchy drama with a sharply observed script and superb performances from the entire cast.

What's it all about?
Evan Rachel Wood stars as 15 year old Kimberly Joyce, the devil in a grey skirt, who rules the roost at her posh Beverly Hills school. When her teacher, Mr Anderson (Ron Livingston) drops her as the lead in the school play, she manipulates her two best friends (Adi Schnall and Elisabeth Harnois) into helping her accuse him of sexual harassment.

Things get more complicated when an ambitious journalist (Jane Krakowski) gets hold of the story. Meanwhile, Kimberly also has problems at home, dealing with her outrageously bigoted father (James Woods) and his trophy wife (Jaime King).

The Good
Evan Rachel Wood is superb as Kimberly, whose butter-wouldn't-melt exterior masks hidden depths of malice. It's a bold decision to have a lead character risk losing the audience's sympathy so frequently, but Wood pulls it off brilliantly.

The supporting cast are equally good. James Woods comes close to stealing the film as Kimberly's foul-mouthed father (his phone-sex scenes are a highlight), while Jane Krakowski has fun as the snappish reporter seduced by Kimberly's charms.

The Great
The darkly comic script (by Skander Halim) is packed full of quotable lines and Siega's playful direction is careful to keep you guessing as to whether Anderson is actually guilty or not. The fact that he buys his girlfriend (Selma Blair) a schoolgirl's outfit and makes her dance to Britney Spears songs doesn't help his case much.

The only dull note is that the script makes a belated attempt to excuse Kimberly's behaviour (stepbrother died in Iraq, real mother ignores her, etc), which feels like a little bit of a cop-out. That said, it's probably the darkest high school film since Heathers, which is no bad thing.

Worth seeing?
In short, this is an extremely enjoyable, superbly acted drama with an intelligent, sharply observed script. Highly recommended.

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