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PRETTY PERSUASION

Review by Gordon Justesen

Stars: Evan Rachel Wood, Ron Livingston, James Woods, Jane Krakowski, Elisabeth Harnois, Danny Comden, Michael Hitchcock, Adi Schnall
Director: Marcos Siega
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 2.35:1
Studio: Sony Home Entertainment
Features: See Review
Length: 110 Minutes
Release Date: December 13, 2005

“Do you hear that? That’s the sound of me not caring.”

Film **

There seems to be a growing trend in films lately, one that has actresses of a young age portraying characters with the highest level of racy antics. Just a matter of weeks ago, Anne Hathaway was seen bearing it all in the rather uninspired Havoc. And now, 18 year old Evan Rachel Wood is going the same route in Pretty Persuasion.

The only difference between Hathaway and Wood is that the second of the two is no stranger to this kind of role. A couple of years ago, Ms. Wood startled audiences and critics alike with her raw and revealing performance in Thirteen. With this film, Wood is playing a character who is even more vicious and cruel.

But unlike Thirteen, this film doesn’t really enter the realm of provocative film, and seems to be mean-spirited just for the sake of being mean spirited. Wood is indeed fantastic, but after such a knockout performance in the previous film, it doesn’t break any new ground for her. The movie itself plays like an uninspired hybrid of Wild Things and Mean Girls.

Wood plays Kimberly Joyce, a 15 year old high school student who seems to be obsessed with the very things a girl at 15 shouldn’t be obsessing with. She smokes spot, has sex with numerous students, and isn’t afraid to verbally abuse her new step mom. Her father (James Woods) doesn’t seem to mind her eccentric behavior, since he himself is an obnoxious and hateful fast-talking personality who delights in telling as many racist jokes as possible during a single dinner.

The central story of the movie consists of a scheme that Kimberly cooks up with her two closest friends, Brittany (Elisabeth Harnois) and Randa (Adi Schnall). She intensely dislikes her English teacher, Mr. Anderson (Ron Livingston), and because she senses that he has lustful thoughts for many of his female students, Kimberly plans to accuse him of sexual molestation. Her two friends go along with the act.

Before long, the Kimberly’s story garners extreme media attention. She catches the eye of TV journalist Emily Klein (Jane Krakowski) in more ways than one. And the entire scandal brings about unexpected twists and tragedies, including a final one that I will admit made me jump out of my seat.

But we’ve all been here before. Like I said, it basically takes in elements of Wild Things and Mean Girls, among other movies, and mixes them to full effect. Anyone who’s seen either of those much better films won’t be surprised by much, except maybe the film’s obsession with showing underage teens engaging in sexual foreplay, as well as seeing how many offensive jokes it can get away with.

Despite the powerhouse cast, Pretty Persuasion can’t seem to offer anything more than sheer mean-spiritedness in addition to its been-there-done-that feel.

Video ****

Sony does a most outstanding job with this very fine anamorphic handling. The widescreen images boast frequent shots that do catch the eye, indeed. Image quality is nothing but clearness, and colors look most amazing, as well.

Audio ***

This is a dialogue-driven piece, so the 5.1 mix services this film as good as it can. The dialogue delivery is terrifically clear and crisp, and momentary background noise finds itself in several areas.

Features *

The only feature is a list of Bonus Trailers for additional Sony titles.

Summary:

While the intention of Pretty Persuasion might be to simply be a satire of some sort, it goes a little too far in some instances, and the movie just isn’t very satisfying. The cast is a strong one, but it can’t save the film from its falling.

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