Marcos Siega‘s tragicomic Pretty Persuasion (2005), scripted by Skander Halim, isn’t as bad as I thought it was going to be. But it didn’t win me over. The plot is literally incredible, concerning three high-school girls, one of them a bashful Muslim, who avenge themselves on a neurotic English teacher by falsely accusing him of sexual harassment. The iniquitous Kimberly Joyce (Evan Rachel Wood) dreams up the idea. Impossible to swallow is the Muslim girl’s going along with it. Impossible to swallow is Kimberly’s ultimate aim. Impossible to swallow is . . . Kimberly’s father, played by James Woods.
What David Denby wrote in The New Yorker is defensible: the film is a “poison-pen letter to a country [America] swollen with self-esteem.” It has a lot to do with disagreeable, narcissistic behavior throughout American society, involving all ages. Even the falsely accused teacher is sorely self-serving. But the truth of the matter is that Evan Wood deserves better than a film which turns its misanthropic attitude toward a 15-year-old girl and not only the film’s adults. Miss Wood handles speech and timing unerringly, and is pleasantly assured in her unrealistic part. Pretty Persuasion is unworthy. As frequently happens in movies nowadays, its dirty-mindedness, to lift Denby’s word, quickly gets boring.
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