Pretty Persuasion (2005)

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Pretty Persuasion (2005)

Postby justindeimen » Mon Aug 07, 2006 1:10 pm



Review:

Evan Rachel Wood stars as Kimberly Joyce, an aspiring starlet gifted with an amazing intellect and killer sex appeal - all while being a high-school student in a private school. An apparent culmination of a broken home, a privileged lifestyle and a lack of parental boundaries, "Pretty Persuasion" maraudes as a satire that cuts right down to teenage sex issues, racism and media irresponsibility but its really just a drama with an unhealthy fixation on comedy and no particular place to direct its send-up at.

Armed with an acumen for persuasion, Kimberly uses it on everyone, from her uncouth businessman father (James Woods) to her best friend, Brittany (Elisabeth Harnois). Lying and manipulation is second nature to her, she even manages to convince herself from time to time. Shes an anti-heroine, who youd never root for. Not even when you learn her motivations. She knows her beauty, although good-looking, is limited, and does not set her apart from the competition when it comes to auditions and screen roles. Kimberlys not the most popular girl either, as she dispenses insults and backhanded compliments with razor sharp proficiency but she is promiscuous, trading sexual favours for actual favours. Wary of her talents are her teachers and principal, as they appear malcontented at her strong and formidable disposition.

Unfortunately, the English teacher, Percy Anderson (Ron Livingston) draws her ire when he punishes her and a new student, an immigrant Arab girl, Randa (Adi Schnall) who was unfairly reprimanded because of a defiant Kimberly. Randa sticks with Kimberly and Brittany, although uncomfortable with their licentious behaviour and oh-so insipid American ways, a true innocent to their immoral antics. At a slumber party, Kimberly schools them in order to enlist them in corroborating an accusation of sexual assault at the English teacher. They go along unwillingly, with the realisation of instant feminist heroism and increased exposure, in the case of Kimberly even if they lose. This incident sets off a media frenzy led by Emily Klein (Jane Krakowski), a lesbian reporter who finds herself in dangerous Sapphic territory with a master seductress in Kimberly. Allying herself with her, Emily sets out on a one-sided crusade against Percy.

What it does well is its careful unwrapping of the truth behind Percys accusation. It keeps us in the dark on whether he is indeed guilty. Various instances of Percys behaviour with his wife (Selma Blair) and furtive looks at girls in the school make us question the validity of those claims.

Theres a sense of irony in this film, when the filmmakers themselves make caricatures of the characters in the script. Its so conceited and self-aware that it lampoons everyone and everything, from the Columbine shootings to the war in Iraq. The high-schoolers are either presented as brain-dead but attractive or sex-obsessed losers, adding to their self-parody. Everyones a victim in this film and everyone is an object of comtempt. Just as Saved! (with another rising starlet in Jena Malone) did it heart and humour, this film did it with condescension and disrespect.

Despite an uproariously hilarious portrayal by James Wood, in a role that you might think is actually James Wood as he is, its still a weak and offensive film that just does not know what it wants to be. Its social commentary gone the way of opine bashing. Shame, considering Rachel Evan Woods actually gives a great performance in this, even more impressive than in Thirteen. Undeniably, shes one to look to out for in the future.

2 out of 5 stars

Justin Deimen
justindeimen
 


Re: Pretty Persuasion (2005)

Postby wpqx » Mon Aug 07, 2006 2:37 pm

I've heard generally bad things about this movie, but it still looks so damn appealing to me. I have it just haven't quite gotten around to watching it, I'll be sure to throw some comments in here when I do.
wpqx
 

Re: Pretty Persuasion (2005)

Postby justindeimen » Mon Aug 07, 2006 3:05 pm

It did seems really appealing. It reminded me alot of Saved! cept that was better.

Its comedy will generally please most but the drama in it will disappoint many others. Quite a half-assed attempt to be politically incorrect I have to say.
justindeimen
 

Re: Pretty Persuasion (2005)

Postby wpqx » Mon Aug 07, 2006 4:02 pm

saved was too PC for my taste, could have gone a lot further
wpqx
 

Re: Pretty Persuasion (2005)

Postby trevor826 » Mon Aug 07, 2006 7:16 pm

Re: Saved, I remember thinking "what a film that could've been" instead of playing safe and turning into typical dross. It wouldn't have been so much of a let down but it started so well.

Cheers Trev.
trevor826
 

Re: Pretty Persuasion (2005)

Postby justindeimen » Mon Aug 07, 2006 7:43 pm

I didn't think Saved! was all that bad. It would have suffered if its carried more weight that it did. Heavy topic aside, it was supposed to be dealt with a heartfelt and deft comic touch with just a hint of absurdity.

Absurdity is very much a part of Pretty Persuasion, its just the wrong ingredient at the wrong time especially with its much maligned and a borderline maniacal drive to push some nihilist agenda concerning political correctness. It was just meant to be mean, with no substance or enlightened subtext beneath its layers of verisimilitude.
justindeimen
 

Re: Pretty Persuasion (2005)

Postby arsaib4 » Fri Aug 25, 2006 3:36 am

I think you're review is pretty much on the mark, Justin. Pretty Persuasion really didn't know what it wanted to be. But the director did apparently believe that dinner-table cursing and references to lesbianism are quite transgressive. I felt bad for both Woods and Rachel Wood, who I'm assuming took this project because it sounded promising on paper.

In comparison Saved was better, but it also ultimately betrayed its premise by trying to please everyone. Election is arguably the best high-school set satire/black comedy of recent years.
arsaib4
 

Re: Pretty Persuasion (2005)

Postby wpqx » Fri Aug 25, 2006 3:10 pm

Agreed on the quality of Election, although I've avoided many similar themed films so I can't vouch for how well it compares. Where's John Hughes when you need him?
wpqx
 

Re: Pretty Persuasion (2005)

Postby wpqx » Mon Sep 11, 2006 3:11 pm

Well I watched the film this weekend, and I must have to disagree with all of you. I found it extremely clever, witty, and well structured. Everything in this film has a purpose, and not a single line of dialogue or action is in it for no reason. Wood is great as I've come to expect of her and she is equally evil and sympathetic. The film is full of parallels and repeating motifs. Shots repeat, scenes come full circle, and we're left in the dark enough to make things interesting as the plot unfolds. When this film came out I sensed that it might be a film that people just wouldn't quite know what to do with, and I think it is. Time will hopefully be good to this film, and I think it succeeds as a multi-layered social commentary.
wpqx
 


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