Pretty Persuasion

If you've forgotten just how good HEATHERS, ELECTION or even CRUEL INTENTIONS were, this putrid high-school satire should refresh your memory. Like CLUELESS and so many far, far better films before it, TV-director Marcos Siega and writer Skander Halim's first feature takes aim at a broad target — the casually cruel world of a tony Beverly Hills high...read more

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Reviewed by Ken Fox
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If you've forgotten just how good HEATHERS, ELECTION or even CRUEL INTENTIONS were, this putrid high-school satire should refresh your memory. Like CLUELESS and so many far, far better films before it, TV-director Marcos Siega and writer Skander Halim's first feature takes aim at a broad target — the casually cruel world of a tony Beverly Hills high school — yet still manage to miss the mark by a mile. Fifteen-year-old Kimberly Joyce (Evan Rachel Wood) and her blonde best friend, Brittany Wells (Elisabeth Harnois), are aspiring actresses attending L.A.'s prestigious Roxbury School. Kimberly's home life is privileged but unhappy; dinner is spent listening to her father (James Woods) rail against the Jews he has to work with, while Kimberly accuses her pop-psychologizing stepmother (Jaime King) of having sex with the family dog. A well-timed phone call reveals that Kimberly's mother not only forgets her birthday, but can't remember how to spell her own daughter's name. At school it's a different story. Kimberly is pretty, smart and popular, though the fact that she's had anal sex with Warren Prescott (Johnny Lewis) has earned her something of a reputation. Kimberly doesn't even seem to mind that Brittany is now going out with her dreamy ex-boyfriend, Troy (Stark Sands). She's too busy socially mentoring new-girl Randa Azzouni (Adi Schnall), the daughter of wealthy Middle Eastern immigrants who comes to school wearing a white hijab despite Kimberly's kindly warning her that people will laugh or think she's a terrorist. After introducing Randa to the joys of bulimia, porn and Twinkies, Kimberly comes up with a way to punish Mr. Anderson (Ron Livingston). Anderson is the lecherous teacher who not only gave Randa and Kimberly detention, but also stripped Kimberly of the lead in The Diary of Anne Frank after she referred to another student's father as a "money-grubbing Jew shyster" right in front of the Israel booth at the school's multicultural food fair. The plan: Kimberly, Brittany and Randa will all accuse Mr. Anderson of sexual harassment. Most of Halim's script is a laundry list of offensive remarks that he no doubt means to serve as titillating spoof, but none of it's funny or even the least bit provocative, just offensive. The obvious critique of the way tabloid media exploits teen tragedy — Jane Krakowski plays a gay TV fluff reporter who sees Kimberly's accusations as the springboard to a bright future as a serious journalist — was done better done in the SCREAM movies. And no, you don't get to hear the great old R.E.M. song from which the movie takes its title, so there's no sense in sticking it out until the end.

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  • Released: 2004
  • Rating: NR
  • Review: If you've forgotten just how good HEATHERS, ELECTION or even CRUEL INTENTIONS were, this putrid high-school satire should refresh your memory. Like CLUELESS and so many far, far better films before it, TV-director Marcos Siega and writer Skander Halim's fi… (more)

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