Kimberly (Evan Rachel Wood) is a spiteful young wannabe actress and fulltime minx who accuses her teacher (Ron Livingston) of sexual harassment… partly for fun, partly to get some acting practice in, mostly for spite. And before you know it there’s a TV news crew camped out on the door, with an overeager reporter (Jane Krakowski) visibly almost aroused as she recounts the allegations. Pretty Persuasion would be a better film if it were a straighter film, or if it had gone all out for dark funnies. But there’s some real gold in this otherwise overstrained satire scraping the crud from the underside of the Bel Air idyll. Wood is remarkable as Kimberly, all hot-bodied, over-sexualised, and a total bitch. And the always reliable Selma Blair is ideal as Livingston’s wife (the scene in which she dances for him in schoolgirl garb is sexy, funny and reveals that the schoolgirl intuited something about her teacher and was pushing at an open door). Underused but very funny is James Woods, scene-stealing in his undercrackers as the sleazy dad more interested in phone sex than his daughter – which is why Kimberly ended up such a piece of work in the first place.
© Steve Morrissey 2006