Kimberly Joyce (Evan Rachel Wood) is an insanely intelligent, wildly funny, shockingly cruel and sexy-beyond-her-years Beverly Hills teenager who will stop at nothing to become famous, including accusing her drama teacher ... more »(Ron Livingston) of sexual harrassment. Believing the world is an orchestra and she is the conductor, Kimberly masterfully manipulates all those around her. She convinces her two best friends to join her in a campaign against their befuddled teacher. Kimberly entangles the entire Beverly Hills community in her carefully woven web of seduction and deceit in this clever comedy.« less
"If you don't like films with unnecessary graphic language you may want to put "Pretty Persuasion" on your "films to avoid" list. There is so much exploitive language and perversions (mostly discussed rather than demonstrated) that I was regretting my purchase 20-25 minutes into the story, even though I was laughing fairly often-especially at Kimberly's (Evan Rachel Wood) comments about the relationship between her stepmother and her dog. I was amazed that Wood had agreed to do this thing and felt that in a few years she would regret having it on her resume.
But after about 30 minutes I was either hardened to the dialogue or had begun to understand that most of it was there for a legitimate purpose. And to enjoy "Pretty Persuasion" you have to be willing to accept a fair amount of what first seems needless exploitation. It used to be that teenagers went to the movies to see adults making love, now adults go to the movies to see teenagers making love, or at least speaking and behaving suggestively.
This black comedy and parental neglect social statement comes 50 years after Ed Wood featured it in "The Violent Years". Instead of a gang of privileged girls robbing gas stations, 15 year old Kimberly and her two classmates, best friend Brittany (Elisabeth Harnois) and shy Muslim girl Randa (Adi Schnall), bring sexual harassment charges against one of their teachers. And "Pretty Persuasion" introduces a lot more dark wit into the equation, a function of Skander Halim's screenplay and Marcos Siega's direction.
The most intriguing thing about "Pretty Persuasion" is the way it embeds a complementary theme about Hollywood hypocrisy in the very structure of the film. Promiscuous teenage girls and lesbians are established titillation elements in exploitation films. And during viewing you are subtly persuaded that you are watching a fairly graphic exploitation film. It is only upon later reflection that you realize that you have actually seen nothing, everything was implied by the dialogue or staged partially off-camera. A prudish viewer is not offended so much by the images as by the implications that they have supplied themselves.
As a response to the growing sexual exploitation element in films, beginning in the 1930's Hollywood self-regulated itself through the Hays Code. Its provisions stated that: "pictures shall not infer that low forms of sex relationships are the accepted and common thing", "scenes of passion should not be introduced when not essential to the plot", and "seduction or rape should never be more than suggested". The tone of "Pretty Persuasion" is disapproving of the sexual relationships that are taking place, its scenes of passion are essential to the plot, and the seduction takes place off camera; making it at least technically in compliance with the old code.
The story is told from Kimberly's point of view and "Pretty Persuasion is a good example of the power of POV in fostering identification and sympathy for the character through whom we are witnessing the main events. By the end most viewers are perversely hoping that Kimberly will be successful. Few actors could elicit sympathy for this character but Wood manages to do so, you work to resist her but ultimately you lose.
You are further won over at the end when you realize that Kimberly's cynicism is largely justified, even if her actions are not. Were she able to choose, Kimberly would not elect to so cynical, it is simply a reflection of a world that is a major disappointment to her. So the character Wood brings to the screen is one that you go from hating, to sympathizing with, to admiring.
The theme of cynicism, as well as its cause and effect, has never been better dealt with than in this film. Using sex as her commodity and insightful analysis of other's weaknesses as her weapon, the disillusioned Kimberly is pretty much able to manipulate the world to suit her designs.
Wood is becoming the Tuesday Weld of her generation but is treating us to stuff in her mid- teens that Weld did not do until her mid-20's. Think of "Pretty Poison" and "I Walk the Line". Or even more appropriately Weld''s portrayal of Abigail in "The Crucible", because at its core "Pretty Persuasion" is a modern version of Arthur Miller's classic; an intriguing blend of "The Crucible", "To Die For" and "Heathers".
After watching Wood in "Pretty Persuasion", you realize that it is not something to be purged from her resume but something she should highlight.
Then again, what do I know? I'm only a child."
Where will it all end?
badge | FL USA | 12/20/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Don't be misled by the review comments on the front of the box. This movie is neither "extremely funny" nor is it "a comedy brimming with zesty shock value". There really isn't anything funny about teen suicide or high school shootings, nor does this movie try to suggest that there is. Instead the story is about a girl whose life has been made painful by the death of her brother in Iraq, a mother who deserted her, a father who is an obnoxious slob, a best friend who stole her boyfriend, and the part of Ann Frank in the school play that gets taken away from her and given to the same "best friend". What makes the main character, Kimberley, special is that she maintains her poise despite all these negatives, at least on the outside. Only towards the end of the movie do we really get anything like a glimpse of the torment that is raging inside of her, and the harsh, mechanical, even cold exterior that she must maintain in order to keep her internal world under control. The comment made by the father of the Muslim girl at the end of the movie is the most poignant - "We came here in search of the American Dream...and instead we found a nightmare!" The movie, to me, is an indictment of western society, of the mess we have made of our families, our communities, our value system, and ultimately it's about the pain and suffering this heaps on our children. Excellent performance by the lead actress."
Lauren Siegel | Los Angeles, CA | 01/30/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Incredibly smart and undyingly witty. MARCOS SIEGA has TRULY proved himself to be Hollywood's next hot commodity. I watched it the moment I got home and again the next day - I can NOT stop talking about this movie. Between EVAN RACHEL WOOD's performance and MARCOS SIEGA's beautiful eye, PRETTY PERSUASION will take you on an insane ride of emotions, many you didn't know you were capable of having. It will make you laugh, it will piss you off. It will shock you, it will touch you. You'll think about death, you'll think about sex. PRETTY PERSUASION accomplishes the intelligence, art and beauty that hundreds of movies fail to accomplish every year. You will talk about this film for weeks. The only thing this DVD is lacking is the extra stuff... I would PAY to hear SIEGA's commentary. A MUST buy DVD."
Only-A-Child | 12/10/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"this movie is laugh out loud funny in a politically incorrect way. It's similar in many ways to cruel intentions and mean girls except this one is a dark comedy."
"Every war has its casualties"
M. J Leonard | Silver Lake, Los Angeles, CA United States | 12/18/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Profanity and irreverence abound in Pretty Persuasion, a mordantly funny, and totally off kilter dark comedy by director Marcos Siega and writer Skander Halim. Evan Rachel Wood plays Kimberly Joyce, a scheming Beverly Hills socialite and ingénue orchestrating her world for her own ends. Kimberly is only fifteen, but far wise beyond her years, she manipulates everyone around her, and absolutely nothing can stop her.
While she at home witnesses her father entering into uncontrollable anti-Semitic tirades, Kimberly gets and receives oral satisfaction from her boyfriend, whilst also telling her protégée, and new best friend Randa (a gorgeous Adi Schnall), an Arab émigré, that she, Kimberly, is glad she is white. Then she wonders what she would choose to be if she had to be something else. Randa listens quietly, wide-eyed, probably just thankful that she has a friend in need.
Booted from the lead role in a school production of The Diary of Anne Frank and fed up with English teacher Mr. Anderson (Ron Livingston), Kimberly exacts revenge by concocting a graphic tale of a sexual assault, which may or may not be true. She is aided by ditzy best friend Brittany (Elisabeth Harnois), and Randa who both chime in on Kimberly's allegations. Although their teacher is more than likely innocent of the charges, he's still guilty of perverse impulses, and even goes so far as to dress up his wife (Selma Blair) in a short school skirt then gets her to act out being a naughty girl.
Kimberly revels in being nasty, turning candor into a form of aggression, using sexual availability as a way of gaining power and demanding favors, and boasting of her friendships, while also working hard to annihilate any friend within reach. Greed and narcissism have made her virtually senseless. She's a character you virtually love to hate carrying us along with her shear wickedness, hoodwinking us, and her friends with her deceptive charm.
Evan Rachel Wood is effortless and mature in her portrayal of Kimberly, casually tossing off hidden racial insults, using four-letter words, and verbal daggers with zest and a shocking self-confidence. The rest of the cast are suitably over the top, especially James Woods as the hard to forget drug addled, grossly overweight father of Kimberly, a man who cares more about his ailing business than his daughter's dastardly actions. Jane Krakowski is also a standout as a local reporter, who develops a crush on Kimberly, while hoping to make a name for herself amidst all the controversy.
Pretty Persuasion is obviously a wicked satire on high school students, but the movie also attempts to define the complexities of sexual harassment. This is where the movie falls apart, as it seems unsure of how to juggle the comedic, satirical elements within the drama. Towards the end the convoluted screenplay tends to falter, with too many flashbacks that don't really contribute to the overall story. The film could have worked much better with a bit of tightening; instead, Siega lets the film run about 20 minutes too long. This, however, is less bothersome the ending of the movie, which abruptly changes its tone.
Still, Pretty Persuasion is an accomplished effort, not only for Siega, but also for the talented Evan Rachel Wood, who proves once and for all, that she's certainly leading lady material. Full of the usual assortment of hyper-competitive girls, loutish boys angling for the next bit of sexual service, and mealy-mouthed, hypocritical adults, Pretty Persuasion is far nastier, more profane, and far more drastically stylized than other chick flicks such as Mean Girls. Don't expect any virtuous good girls here; they're all unabashedly nasty from beginning to end. Mike Leonard December 05. "