In a time when the collected works of Hilary Duff and Lindsay Lohan have looked like they could suck out whatever feeble life is left in the high school film, along comes a black-hearted piece of nastiness like Pretty Persuasion to remind us that, yes, nothing can simultaneously shock and entertain quite so well as a teenager let loose.

It must be said that things don't begin well, however, with its focus the film's star bitch, 15-year-old Kimberly Joyce (Evan Rachel Wood), who looks to be the queen of her snotty private high school in Beverly Hills. Appearing at first to be the result of some hideous experiment whereby Reese Witherspoon's Election spunk and drive was spliced with the power-lusting evil of at least a couple of the Heathers, Kimberly soon shows herself to be an entirely different sort of villain. In the process of escorting a quiet new Arab student, Randa Azzouni (Adi Schnall), around campus and explaining to her the facts of life and a clinical cost/benefit analysis of the two of them being friends (Randa gets to hang out with one of the school's stars, while Kimberly thinks she looks prettier standing next to Randa), Kimberly drops in this little nugget, "I have respect for all races. But I'm really happy to have been born white." She then proceeds to list, in descending order, the races she would prefer to be, and then patiently explains to Randa - in her flat, rational, almost toneless voice - exactly why Arab would be her last choice ("No offence.").

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