Pretty Persuasion

When it first came out at the 2005 Sundance Film Festival, audiences wowed over how inappropriate and funny Pretty Persuasion was. It was nominated for the Grand Jury Prize, but did not win. But, like many festival films, the hype preceding it does not live up to the actual film. Pretty Persuasion arrives in theaters with a lot of buzz, but the hoopla is much ado about very little. The first half hour of the film is hilarious. Director Marcos Siega and screenwriter Skander Halim create a vicious black comedy, skewering anything and everything that gets in their way. Then, they run out of gas. Pretty Persuasion loses a lot of its dark edge, and putters along until it ends.

The film does mark another nice role for Evan Rachel Wood (The Upside of Anger, The Missing). Wood has avoided many of the typical teen fodder her peers appear in, favoring roles with high profile costars or roles that allow her to explore different facets of human emotion. She was young and rebellious in Thirteen, and now she is cold and calculating. As highschooler Kimberly Joyce, Wood wants to be an actor, and will stop at nothing to get there. Siega introduces audiences to Joyce through Randa (Adi Schnall), the new Middle-Eastern kid at a hoity-toity high school in Beverly Hills. On a tour, Joyce manages to talk up herself and indirectly insult nearly everybody else. Most everybody there is a child of fortune. Kimberly's dad, Hank (a highly amusing James Woods, Be Cool, Northfork) owns electronics stores. He is drugged out and completely indifferent to what Joyce does. As a result, Joyce has free reign to do whatever she wants.

The script is a constant stream of racial slurs. Hank is a vicious rapist, and it rubs off on Joyce, who claims otherwise. She throws out epithets easily and without a second thought. It is so inappropriate that it is funny, especially when it comes from somebody with "the face of an angel." There are a few scenes where the camera zooms quickly onto Wood's face, and she looks absolutely demonic. It's funny for a while, then the jokes abruptly lessen and get less funny. It feels like Siega felt tired and decided to try something else. None of the adults care. They push the responsibility over to somebody else. Siega also arranges some of the scenes out of sequence. It doesn't really add anything to the film, and is more distracting than anything else.

Joyce has a bone to pick with her English teacher Mr. Anderson (Ron Livingston, Winter Solstice, Little Black Book). Her best friend Brittany Wells (Elisabeth Harnois, Facade) and Randa also have issues with Anderson. They concoct a plan to accuse of him sexual harassment, creating a media circus around their high school. Reporter Emily Klein (Jane Krakowski, Alfie, Marci X), herself looking to use whoever she can to get to the top, jumps at the opportunity to exploit the situation. Joyce thought she could control everything, but of course, events spiral out of her control. Thankfully, Siega and Halim do not opt for a moral lesson like many other films would, but the story still lost most of its bite and steam.

Mongoose Rates It: Okay.
1 hour, 44 minutes, Not Rated but contains language and some sensuality, an easy R.

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