This dark comedy sounds, on paper, like yet another Heathers homage. But unlike Clueless, Mean Girls and their feel-good ilk, Pretty Persuasion focuses on deadpan social commentary rather than pop self-consciousness. More clever than laugh-out-loud funny, the film has plenty to say about political correctness, sexual impropriety, and the inanities of local TV news. It's not exactly subtle -- especially during its forced, heavy-handed climax -- but it does establish a broad satirical agenda without devolving into an insulting farce. The self-absorption of well-heeled Hollywood teens has been mined to death for both comedy and pathos, but director Marcos Siega and first-time screenwriter Skander Halim are smart enough to relegate this particular theme to throwaway dialogue as wicked as it is believable. Star Evan Rachel Wood plays an altogether different sort of bad girl from the one she portrayed in Thirteen; comparisons to Nicole Kidman's character in To Die For are inevitable. But it's the rich supporting cast, including James Woods and Jane Krakowski, who provide the bulk of the uneasy chuckles. As the Muslim student who gets swept up in the schemes of two bratty blondes, newcomer Adi Schnall makes the most of an under-written role. Like Pretty Persuasion itself, her part is schematic and cold, yet no less truthful or enjoyable for it.
by Brian J. Dillard review