Brutal, venomous and unsparing, music video director Marcos Siega's debut feature film Pretty Persuasion is a poison pen valentine to high school girls – it's a darker, nastier hybrid of Election and Heathers, with a healthy twist of Mean Girls added in. Thanks to a magnificent performance by Evan Rachel Wood as Kimberly Joyce and a comically unhinged turn by James Woods as Kimberly's father Hank, this fiendishly funny comedy ranks as one of the wittiest and little-seen of 2005.
Kimberly, a student at Roxbury Academy, a prestigious private co-ed Beverly Hills high school, spends her days as a cynical guide to Arabian transfer student Randa (Adi Schnall), palling around with her vacuous best friend Brittany Wells (Elisabeth Harnois) while putting up with her bilious racist of a father (Woods) and her young stepmother Kathy (Jaime King). An aspiring actress, Kimberly lets an anti-Semitic remark fly during lunch and promptly finds herself bounced out of the school production of "The Diary of Anne Frank" – the wily social climber retaliates by leveling charges of sexual assault at her English teacher, Percy Anderson (Ron Livingston), with help from Randa and Brittany. The ensuing uproar and trial attracts the attention of ambitious reporter Emily Klein (Jane Krakowski), who becomes more involved than even she first planned.
Penned by Skander Halim, Pretty Persuasion vacillates between a sharp, biting satire and a acidly funny black comedy – Halim, Siega and the exceptional cast make some rather barbed observations about contemporary American life. Race, sex, gender identity, intolerance and materialism all fall under the film's sadistic blade and often to stinging, hilarious effect. Wood, Woods, Livingston and Krakowski are all note-perfect in their respective roles; Woods, in particular, is an absolute howl as Kimberly's blithely crude father. Pretty Persuasion may not be everyone's cup of arsenic, but those who delight in comedies that pull few punches, drink up.
Pretty Persuasion is presented in a sterling 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer – as befits a recently released film, there's not a speck of dust or hint of print damage to be found. Sharp, crisp and saturated, this is one slick looking image.
Offered up in Dolby Digital 5.1, Pretty Persuasion is a film largely driven by dialogue, all of which is heard clearly and free of distortion. Gilad Benamram's odd, spare score doesn't intrude upon the witty, jet-black dialogue – like the pristine image, this is a solid sonic representation.
It'd be nice to hear Siega's thoughts on his freshman cinematic effort but alas the only bonus material included is trailers for The Exorcism of Emily Rose, Oliver Twist, The Gospel, Sueno, Into The Blue and Saved!.
Pretty Persuasion is a biting, pitch black comedy that features several superb comic performances, barbed observations about contemporary American life and assured direction from music vid helmer turned feature filmmaker Marcos Siega. The lack of extras is lamentable but nevertheless, this film comes highly recommended.