Sunday, March 20, 2011

CRACKS (2011)

Written by Ben Court, Caroline Ip and Jordan Scott

Directed by Jordan Scott

Where & When: Laemmle's Sunset 5, West Hollywood, CA. March 18, 2011  7:30PM

Cinema has had a history of portraying all female schools as a hot house of developing bodies, raging hormones and budding sexuality but luckily, these young girls have the guidance of their nurturing teachers to help them sort out these confusing times."Cracks" is the latest to explore this world but proceeds to show the very dark side of it.

Set in Britain at a Catholic girls boarding school in the 1930's, a group of six students room together and are part of the school's swim team. The ringleader is Di (Juno Temple), a controlling and manipulative sourpuss who calls all of the shots. She has a crush on their teacher, Miss G (Eva Green), a sophisticated young woman who encourages the girls to be self-empowered and fills their heads with wonderful stories of the world beyond the school walls.

The principal, Miss Nieven (Sinead Cusack) announces that a foreign student is joining the school and she expects the girls to be kind to her despite her being a Roman-Catholic.

After Fiamma (Maria Valverde), a pretty and aristocratic asthmatic, arrives from Spain, Di sizes her up and decides that Fiamma is a snob and she promptly becomes an outcast. However, Miss G is very intrigued by the new student which causes Di  to dislike Fiamma even more.

Di and the girls throw a bag of supplies at Fiamma and force her to leave the school. She is glad to leave but has no where to go. Fiamma is found and returned to the compound. The girls, feeling slightly guilty, try to make amends and decide to have a midnight party with food and booze.  Miss G interrupts their gathering and discovers Fiamma very drunk. The teacher decides to take the young girl to her room, which Di finds a little strange. Di sneaks over to Miss G's room and is shocked to discover what she is doing to the passed out Fiamma.

The next day, Fiamma rejects Miss G and, fearing for her job and reputation, the teacher uses Di and the rest of the girls to angrily confront Fiamma which leads to very tragic results.

"Cracks", which has been completed since 2009 but is just now receiving a theatrical release in the US, is the first feature of Jordan Scott and she has all of the right elements in place; a great cast, the Oscar nominated cinematographer, John Mathieson and two very experienced producers, her father, the director, Ridley Scott and her Uncle, Tony Scott but the film still falls flat.

There are three writers credited to the screenplay, which is based on a novel by Sheila Kohler, but they didn't seem to communicate with each other as it's unclear of what type of film they were trying make; since there are elements of a coming of age story, a psychological thriller and a cheesy B-movie but they do not fit well together. In fact, "Cracks" plays like an exploitation movie all dolled up as a high art film but there isn't much fun or camp.

Although  I don't think Ms Green's performance is to blame but the rapid transformation of Miss G from a worldly educator to an unhinged  psychotic is jarring and unexplained. The rest of the actors do the best they can but I think they were probably also left in the dark on what direction the film was supposed to take.

I was really looking forward to "Cracks" after seeing the terrific trailer but the film was a disappointment although Ms Scott does show some potential as a film maker. I'm sure she will get another opportunity to show us what she can do.