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Review: Pretty Persuasion

Politically incorrect high school comedy

Evan Rachel Wood in Pretty Persuasion

Due to a change of release dates our review of this dark comedy didn't make it into the July issue of Film Review (#672). So here it is in all its glory!


Stars Evan Rachel Wood, Selma Blair, Adi Scnall, Elisabeth Harnois, James Woods, Ron Livingston, Jaime King, Jane Krakowski
Director Marcos Siega
Screenplay Skander Halim
Certificate 18
Distributor Metrodome
Running Time 1hr 50mins
Country USA

Early on in Pretty Persuasion, we learn that this is not going to be a politically correct school comedy. “I have respect for all races but I’m very glad I was born white,” says anti-heroine Kimberly Joyce (Wood), as she’s speaking to a new friend, the Arabian-born Randa (Schnall). Nevertheless, she takes Randa under her wing at the exclusive Beverly Hills school they attend. Introducing her to old friend Brittany (Harnois) – who claims “I know all about the immigrant experience – I’m Canadian!” – Kimberly is the sort who barely manages to hide her contempt for the world. Raised by an anti-Semitic father (Woods) and a stepmother (King) she loathes, the self-confessed “aspirant” Kimberly only dreams of becoming an actress.

Barring her way, it seems, is drama teacher Percy Anderson (Livingston). When he crosses not only Kimberly but also Randa and Brittany, she encourages her friends to accuse him of sexual harassment. With plot moving back and forth in time, writer Halim and director Siega conceal the trio of incidents that the girls present as evidence against their teacher. Instead, we are shown an early scene that sees Percy give his girlfriend (Blair) a grey skirt similar to those worn by his pupils, a clumsy attempt to put doubt in our minds about him. In the background to all this is a local TV reporter (Krakowski), determined to stir things up as she files a story on the school.

Pretty Persuasion, while peddling a nice line in outrageous patter, never really has the courage of its convictions. As good as Wood is as the ruthless Kimberly, she must contend with a rather two-dimensional character who has turned out the way she has because of simply bad parenting. It’s about as original as the notion that, for male teachers, high school is “cock teasing 101”, as Percy is told by a colleague. Hovering uncomfortably between comedy and satire, Pretty Persuasion never quite gets the balance right. Not dark enough to rank alongside the definitive Heathers, nor intelligent enough to make any valid social commentary, it relies on shock value to see it through to the end. Could do better, you might say.

Pretty Persuasion is released in the UK on June 23

by James Mottram

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Image © Metrodome
Review © Visual Imagination 2006. Not for reproduction

Taken from
Film Review (Jul), see below for ordering options
Film Review (Jul)
#672, July 2006
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