Thursday, August 25, 2005

Pretty Persuasion (2005)

Ignore the overheated pans -- this is a blistering satirical look at American life that's guaranteed to provoke at least a couple of gasps. Nathan Rabin of The Onion AV Club summons the spectre of Lord Love a Duck in reviewing this, and the comparison is valid. I'd assume that earlier film was an influence on this, except that Persuasion imagines what would happen if you combined the characters of Alan Musgrave and Barbara Ann Greene into one devious, brilliant, fame-seeking uberbitch. The film, unforunately, doesn't have the pinpoint accuracy of that previous near-masterpiece -- this is very much a first-timer film, with writer Skander Halim and director Marcos Siega throwing knives at everything they see and hoping most of the missiles stick. Most of the material works, but some threads are either underdeveloped (Jane Krakowski's plotline) or bad ideas (the quasi-boyfriend who can't remember why beer is better than a woman). This buckshot approach makes the last half hour, where the laughs fade in favor of incendiary anger, feel sour and a bit smug. Still, there's enough laughs (and shock-value sass) to make this worthwhile. I predict big things for Mr. Halim, the only screenwriter in the world who would make a John Carpenter's Vampires in-joke. (Not for Mr. Siega, though -- his next film stars Nick Cannon, so apparently he's already sold out.) Also, Evan Rachel Wood is unexpectedly fantastic in this, drawing on a deep well of malevolence that she'd previously kept hidden away. Maybe the thirteen chick has a future after all.

Grade: B-


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