Home playdates website trailer archives

Evan Rachel Wood (Thirteen) plays Kimberly Joyce, an insanely intelligent, wildly funny, shockingly cruel and sexy-beyond-her-years Beverly Hills teenager who will stop at nothing to become famous. Believing the world is an orchestra and she is the conductor, Kimberly masterfully manipulates all those around her—including her two best friends, who join her in a campaign against their befuddled teacher (Ron Livingston, Office Space). A clever comedy with many turns, the film accomplishes the nearly impossible feat of making the lives of privileged teenaged girls into the stuff of sophisticated comedy! James Woods, Jane Krakowski and Selma Blair co-star. Written by Skander Halim and directed by Marcos Siega.

 Pretty Persuasion:
   Anatomy of a Not So Teen Movie

In the five years that it took me to make Pretty Persuasion, I had heard the script being compared to everything from Clueless to Heathers to Mean Girls. Although the film borrows some elements from the teen-comedy genre, it’s not a teen movie and I’m not even sure I feel comfortable calling it a comedy. But because the script read that way, when it finally came down to shooting the film, I was extremely careful to protect myself against all the obvious trappings of the Teen Movie genre. So here are two simple elements, one decided in pre-production, and one decided in post-production, that I think make Pretty Persuasion a not so teen movie.

In the script, Kimberly (Evan Rachel Wood) is described as wearing the traditional school girl uniform—a short plaid skirt, white blouse, and knee high socks. In a film about a high school girl who accuses her teacher of sexual assault, this seemed incredibly obvious. Make her the sexy Lolita, the slutty little schoolgirl. But somehow that seemed a little too cliché. After all, we’ve seen that look so often it seems to be a requisite at most strip clubs.

When I hired Danny Glicker (Costume Designer) the first thing I said to him was to ignore the descriptions in the script. I wanted to create a world that felt timeless with a complete absence of cliques or individual flair at the school. After a few meetings we came up with a concept for a more sophisticated, Grace Kelly-esque look for the girls uniforms. With this idea in mind Danny designed these great long pencil skirts with Peter Pan-collared blouses. We then put all the girls in pink and the boys in blue. The combination felt more period than contemporary. The look gave Kimberly an underlying innocence that undermined her vulgar and sometimes absurd dialogue.

To complement the uniforms I exaggerated the world itself. We cast absurdly perfect extras to surround our actors and we instructed everyone to walk with perfect posture. Even the props were designed to contrast the normal high school look. You won’t find a single knapsack or contemporary school bag at Roxbury High (our fictional Beverly Hills high school). The students carried leather satchels or simple textbooks covered in brown paper bags. As absurd as it seems, these details come across as pretty subtle. None of it really jumps out at you but it clearly feels different than the expected.

After we finished shooting and I first sat down to discuss how much music there should be and where I wanted the music to play, Gilad Benamram, the film’s composer, just assumed there would be some cool “hit songs” peppered throughout the film. He seemed more than a little surprised when I told him to score the entire thing. I didn’t want any songs—rock, hip hop, pop, etc.—I didn’t want anything that you would normally expect to hear in a high school setting. As a matter of fact I wanted him to stay away from anything that might sound like something a teenager would listen to. So we went through the film, scene by scene, assigning themes to each character and discussed where the score would have the most impact.

The day I went to listen to the music that Gilad had written was probably the most stressful day of the entire production process for me. My anxiety had nothing to do with his abilities, he’s an incredibly gifted composer, but I had tremendous expectations of what the music should be and what it would to do the film. Also, to be honest, I wasn’t sure my idea of “no songs” would work.

I couldn’t be happier. The music is better than I ever imagined and it does exactly what I hoped it would. Who needs hit pop songs! If you listen carefully to the soundtrack you can hear the individual character themes and how they move and blend seamlessly throughout the film—creating a single, cohesive score that truly compliments the story.

So when you see an ad for this film and you think you know what to expect, don’t jump to conclusions. At first glance it may look like a teen movie. It may sound like a teen movie. But Pretty Persuasion is definitely not just another teen movie.