Pretty Persuasion (18)

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The Independent Culture

This odious Beverly Hills high school satire stars Evan Rachel Wood as Kimberly, a 15-year-old who thinks her acting career would be boosted by some free publicity. Together with two cowed friends, she accuses her English teacher (Ron Livingston) of sexual harassment, certain that the TV coverage of the trial will grant her 15 minutes of fame.

It's difficult to say which aspect of Pretty Persuasion is the most repellent. Could it be screenwriter Skander Halim's belief that having his characters deliver long racist and anti-semitic tirades is funny in itself? Could it be the way that every scene dribbles on for two minutes after it should have stopped? Could it be the fatal indecision over whether it's a cartoonish comedy, a film noir or a tragedy? Could it be the unhelpful way it confuses its chronology? Or could it be the blank direction, which wastes Wood's chillingly assured performance as a vixen as poised and poisonous as Desperate Housewives' Bree van de Kamp? I'd go for all of the above.

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