A dark teen comedy that arrived in a limited amount of theaters last Summer, "Pretty Persuasion" stars Evan Rachel Wood ("Once and Again", "Thirteen") as Kimberly, a self-centered and intelligent teenager who has her sights set on an acting career. Her plan, which involves help from friends Britney (Elisabeth Harnois) and Middle Eastern exchange student Randa (Adi Schnall), involves accusing the English teacher (Ron Livingston) of sexual harassment.
Her plan is to manipulate just about everyone and everything to gain her 15 minutes of fame, including using a local reporter (Jane Krakowski) to try and get her face out in the media even further. Her parents, on the other hand, might as well as be on another planet, as her ditzy mother (Jamie King) and racist father (James Woods) pay no attention to her, even when she tries to add some graphic discussion at the dinner table.
The film throws down a lot of graphic and un-P.C. discussion about a wide range of topics, but what nearly sabotages the whole enterprise is the fact that, for the most part, there really doesn't seem to be much at the film's core - these often seem like gloomy characters saying unpleasant and offensive things for shock and to be "edgy".
Still, there are some funny bits scattered throughout the movie (a girl discusses how she knows about the difficulties of the immigrant experience because she's from Canada) and fine performances. However, the movie seems to be trying to be a comedy, and yet there isn't much in the way of humor about it because the movie's dark tone and mean dialogue go too far overboard, to the point where I wondered what was funny about characters doing things like these characters do. There's no balance; it's essentially all mean, all the time, which is difficult to sit through, especially when you're dealing with a movie searching for a tone (for the most part, the film is a jarring mixture of attempts at dark comedy and drama, then suddenly it decides on drama for the last act, which includes a tragic ending) and point.
Evan Rachel Wood, who I've thought has given tremendous performances in the past, tries her best to give depth to an underdeveloped character. I didn't think Wood was entirely convincing as a teen who falls in with a bad crowd in "Thirteen" and she doesn't quite convince again here as a teen who is crueler than an entire school's bad crowd, although in this case the script is at fault. She has moments that strongly portray the character's shallowness, but she's sabotaged by a so-so script and the film's draggy pacing. Director Marcos Siega (making his debut after a series of music videos) doesn't help matters any further by getting low-energy performances from rest of the cast, and giving the movie little visual flair.
Overall, "Pretty Persuasion" manages a few laughs when it's not trying hard to be entirely nasty, and Wood's performance is a fine attempt, despite not being assisted by the rest of the film. It's a movie that tries to be a "shocking", edgy comedy and while there's a few positive aspects of the picture, most of it is difficult to sit through and familiar to those have seen any of the similar, better teen films in the past ten years.
VIDEO: "Pretty Persuasion" is presented in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen by Sony Pictures Home Entertainment. The transfer presents the film about as well as possible, with sharpness and detail remaining perfectly fine throughout. Some minor edge enhancement appears, as do a few specks, but the majority of the film appears smooth and clean. Colors look rather flat, but that could be the way that the film has always appeared.
SOUND: "Pretty Persuasion" is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1, although the film's audio is largely stereo in nature, just focusing on the dialogue and offering little else. Dialogue remained crisp and clear.
EXTRAS: Trailers for other Sony Pictures Home Entertainment titles.
Final Thoughts: Overlong and not working particularly well as a drama or comedy, "Pretty Persuasion" does offer a fine performance from Wood, but it's in service of a screenplay that definitely needed reworking. The DVD edition provides good video quality and fine audio, but next-to-nothing in the way of supplements. A slight rental recommendation for those interested.
The Film C-