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Pretty Persuasion (R)

Release Date: August 12th, 2005 (NYC-Loews Lincoln Square,Clearview Chelsea Cinemas, Landmark Sunshine Cinema) by Samuel Goldwyn Films.
The Cast: Evan Rachen Wood, Ron Livingston, James Woods, Elisabeth Harnois, Adi Schnall, Selma Blair, Jane Krakowski.
Directed by Marcos Siega.

BASIC PREMISE: Kimberly Joyce,(Wood),a 15 year-old, accuses her drama teacher (Livingston) of sexual harassment.

ENTERTAINMENT VALUE: Freud would get a real kick out of this movie. Each character is bizarre, twisted, and very sexual—from Kimberly's manipulative and even perverse sexuality to her father's explicit racism. The plot is very simple and mostly predictable. What makes this movie a lot of fun, though, is the witty and dark humor. Most of it is offensive and even perverse, but at least it is funny. There is a great balance to Evan Rachel Wood's performance as Kimberly. At times she is nice and sweet, but other times she is very mean and bitter. This complexity makes for a very interesting and engaging journey into them mind of a girl who basically wants attention. James Woods steals every scene he is in with his awkward fatherly advice--the dinner scene with him, his girlfriend, and Kimberly is particularly hilarious. There is an awkward but somewhat funny scene when the drama teacher makes his wife (Blair) pretend to be a schoolgirl while reading a sexual essay that Kimberly wrote. The plot becomes very silly during the courtroom scenes. There are a few flashbacks with surprising twists and a very revealing confession by one of the supposed victims. Kimberly also ends up having sexual relations with a female reporter (Krakowski) which further shows how powerful her sexuality is. Only an actress as talented as Wood can make a complex character so believable and even somewhat likeable thanks to her great performance that is just as good as it was in the film Thirteen.

SPIRITUAL VALUE: This film says a lot about modern society--particularly about the media and desire to become famous. It is definitely not easy to be teenager in this superficial world. Kimberly is amoral in many ways, but it is not entirely her fault. For one part, her father is to blame for his lack of attention and disrespect of others--especially Jews and African-Americans. Her friends are not a good influence on her, either. Her drama teacher is very creepy. And, finally, there is the media that glamorizes and promotes sexuality. The final scene with Kimberly alone is very subtle, deeply affecting, and surprisingly haunting.

INSULT TO YOUR INTELLIGENCE: The courtroom scenes too silly and contrived to be taken seriously, even though they are very crucial to the plot.


THE BOTTOM LINE: Despite a silly plot with awkward situations, the dark humor along with Evan Rachel Wood's talented acting skills make for a surprisingly lively and deeply affecting social satire.

RECOMMENDED WAY TO WATCH: Movie Theater (1st Run)

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