Pretty Ugly: Pretty Persuasion’s dark side

In the grand style of Heathers, Election, Pumpkin, and many others, Pretty Persuasion is meant to be an over-the-top meditation on the unpleasant side of teenage sexuality and cruelty. It succeeds in being stylish and cruel, but falls short as an exploration of what it all really means.

We know right from the opening shot that the film is about sex, as we witness a roomfull of aspiring actresses in impossibly short skirts at a casting call. And we know that the film is about cruelty moments later, as we see Kimberly Joyce (Evan Rachel Wood) on both sides, first being snidely dismissed by casting agents, then befriending a new muslim student named Randa with a series of backhanded compliments and a particularly vile racist joke, along with the observation that she would never wish to be born an Arab woman.Each character is tweaked to the point of absurdity, creating little more than a carnival of caricatures and personality stereotypes. Here is Brittany, the sweet, trusting (and, it should be noted, blonde) cheerleader who has a penchant for malapropisms. Anyone else ever watch Daria? And over there is Mr. Anderson, the lecherous teacher who buys his wife an outfit that looks conspicuously like the girls

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