Kimberley Joyce (Wood) is a scarily smart, even more scarily sexy 15 year-old schoolgirl who’s greatest ambition in life is to become a famous actress. And she’ll do anything to bathe in the limelight — even if it means ruining her teacher (Livingstone) through false accusations of sexual abuse.
While shooting Pretty Persuasion, Thirteen star Evan Rachel Wood was said by the crew to be “a teenage version of Nicole Kidman in To Die For”. And with good reason. A slender, frosty and pathologically ambitious high-schooler who is fully aware of the power of her raw sexuality, Wood’s Kimberley Joyce is a seductive she-devil in the tradition of To Die For’s Suzanne Stone Maretto, Election’s Tracy Flick — The Last Seduction’s Bridget Gregory, even. “It’s like the world’s this orchestra, and I’m the conductor,” she hisses at one point. Given her potent employment of oral sex (on both sexes), she may well have added that her tongue is the baton.
Yet, look beyond Wood’s unblemished evocation of this fascinating creature, and the film does suffer some unfortunate acne-scarring. Structurally, it’s all over the place, back- and forward-flashing with scant regard for pace. Even worse, the portrayal of Kimberley’s Muslim friend Randa (Adi Schnall) is sadly crass. Peeking out from under her hegab with doe eyes, this 2D naïf is also at the centre of the story’s biggest tonal mis-step.
Thankfully, such thunks are few enough to let Wood’s lighter touches dominate. So measured is her performance, she even convinces us that there’s a soul beneath all Kimberley’s amoral scheming.
A teenie To Die For whose flaws are superceded by a complex, compelling turn from Evan Rachel Wood.
Reviewed by Dan Jolin