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Pretty Persuasion

Revenge is a bitch

Marcos Siega's directorial debut Pretty Persuasion follows the dark adventures of a ruthlessly Machiavellian young Kimberly Joyce (brilliantly played by Evan Rachel Wood) in her insatiable drive towards fame and fortune. No prisoners are taken and nothing is sacred in Kimberly's world. Woe to those who would dare cross her path.

One such poor soul is Kimberly's lustful teacher, Mr. Anderson (Ron Livingston). Percy Anderson can barely conceal the enormous erection he has every time Kimberly and her friends walk by. Anderson incurs Kimberly's wrath by sentencing her and her friend, Randa Azzouni (Randa Azzouni) to an afternoon of detention. It is during this detention that the seeds of revenge are planted.

A witch-hunt of epic proportions unfolds as Kimberly accuses Mr. Anderson of sexual harassment. The ensuing media circus gives the fame starved Kimberly exactly the kind of vehicle she needs to ascend the ladder of stardom.

While it's easy to be critical of Kimberly's behavior, it's hard to find any redeeming characters in this brutal social satire. James Woods plays Kim's acerbic and racist father. Kim's biological mom is little more than a disembodied voice on the other end of the phone who doesn't know the name of Kim's dog and thinks Kim just turned 21. The bottom line is that Kim never really had much of a chance and, as fucked up as she is, she could have been a lot worse.

The performances of all members of the primary cast of Pretty Persuasion are brilliantly absurd. Of particular note is Evan Rachel Wood's frighteningly intelligent performance as the morally and ethically challenged Kimberly. Equally compelling is the performance of James Woods as Kimberly's pill popping, narcissistic Dad. Woods somehow manages to be truly repellent and hysterically funny as Hank Joyce.

Much of the humor in Pretty Persuasion can be attributed to the brilliant and incisive writing of debut screenwriter Skander Halim. Halim constructs some of the most hilariously offensive dialogue heard in ages. While the kind of scathing humor Halim displays in his script may not be broad enough to resonate for a large audience, there is an undeniably honest (if not dark) humor to his story.

Not since Todd Solondz's Welcome to the Dollhouse has the multiplex seen such a painfully frank and unflinching look at the frightening subculture that surrounds high school. Pretty Persuasion is not for the faint of heart, but for those who like their comedy dark and cynical; Pretty Persuasion raises the bar and then some.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars