Like some sketch-comedy Frankenstein monster made from the cutting-room entrails of "Clueless," "The Opposite of Sex," "To Die For," "Election" and "Heathers," the puerile social satire "Pretty Persuasion" is stinging only insomuch as its unsophisticated wit and overwhelming smugness are painful to sit through.
Writer Skander Halim and director Marcos Siega clearly watched all these movies before cranking out this disingenuous dark comedy about a manipulative, 15-year-old private-school tart (Evan Rachel Wood) who accuses a teacher (Ron Livingston) of sexual harassment just to get famous. But they didn't learn a thing from those droll, original pictures about sardonic nuance or creating a feeling of camaraderie towards an unsympathetic anti-heroine.
Wood ("Thirteen"), in a rudimentary role far beneath her proven talent, never shies away from the dangerously sharp edges of Beverly Hills brat Kimberly Joyce, who takes down her two best friends (and fellow accusers), an ambitious TV reporter (Jane Krakowski) and her father's business in her pursuit of her 15 minutes. But there's no wicked delight to be had in her machinations, which are so transparently premeditated that all the other characters in the movie (detectives, judges and lawyers included) have to be certifiable morons in order to advance the plot.
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