PRETTY PERSUASION (Marcos Siega). 104 minutes. Opens Friday (September 23). For venues and times, see Movie Listings. Rating: NNN Rating: NNN
High school student Kimberly Joyce ( Evan Rachel Wood ) orchestrates a sexual harassment scam to destroy a teacher, turns a young Arab teen against her beliefs and gets half the characters to fall in love with her. But Kimberly's skill at manipulation reaches off the screen and into this review. Wood's performance almost convinced me that this was a great film.
Pretty Persuasion is eminently watchable and often bitingly funny, but it plays like an acidic version of Clueless, tackling the same laundry list of easily satirized subjects: America, high school, gun violence, dieting, culture clash, lesbianism, the rich and famous.
Though Wood is well matched by a great cast, including Ron Livingston as a lusting teacher and Jane Krakowski as an opportunistic journalist, it's James Woods who gets the most laughs as Kimberly's racist dad -- "It's not racism, it's telling it like it is," he tells her, "not that I want you to go banging R. Kelly or anything."
Clever dialogue aside, the film holds no real surprises. It's as if writer Skander Halim thinks we're as gullible as his characters. Worthy of a one-night stand, but easily forgotten.