Friday, September 18, 2009

TIFF 2009: Cracks

Eva Green as the inimitable Miss G.

(U.K./Ireland) directed by Jordan Scott, 104 minutes at the Elgin Theatre

Why is a same sex boarding school always such a sexually charged environment in the world of film? One senses immediately that there will be some sort of sexual scandal and/or violence. This film does not disappoint in that respect.

The setting is an elite British boarding school in 1934 on Stanley Island. The dishy French actress Eva Green (probably best known as the love interest in the James Bond vehicle Casino Royale) is referred simply to as "Miss G." by the girls and stars as the bohemian school master. She smokes, wears kohl around her eyes, has beautiful, elegant clothes, ignores rules and is adored by her girls. She organizes diving competitions for the girls in which she urges to strive harder, go higher.

Clearly Sapphic by temperament, she encourages independence and unconventionality and particularly favours the "top mean girl" Di Radfield (Juno Temple from Atonement (2007) and this year's Glorious 39). In a manner, it seems an overly familiar trope - the unconventional, seemingly fabulous teacher who pays for her transgressions against a more conservative society and environment. Except ... Miss G. really should pay for her transgressions in this instance.

Di clearly has feelings for Miss G. and is soon threatened by the appearance of Fiamma (Maria Valverde), a lovely aristocratic Spaniard who is new at the school. Fiamma appears to have been somewhat abandoned by her family in the process.

Fiamma is initially shunned by Di and the girls. But Fiamma is confident enough that she is immune to their jealousies and also to the considerable charms of Miss G. But soon she starts to enchant the girls who fall in love with her imagination, her charm and her beautiful things. Predictably, this creates chaos at the school and, again, it does not end well for Fiamma.

But Fiamma's defiance and her treatment by Miss G., who has been sexually rebuffed by Fiamma, finally inflames the other girls to challenge and reject the manipulative teacher but only after Fiamma is made to pay for her rejection of Miss G.

Although beautifully shot, and well acted by the young girls, the ending is easily foreseen and Jordan Scott (daughter of filmmaker Ridley Scott) brings nothing new to the table in terms of plot and suspense.

Minor TIFF of the Day: According to a recent Vanity Fair article on this film which it calls "The Children’s Hour meets Lord of the Flies", the term cracks refers to a crushes.


Chris Edwards said...

Did you see this today at the Elgin? I was there.

I'll give them credit for making Green's character a total turnaround from the coming-of-age idol cliche I was expecting. But then, I avoided spoilers.

Too many inconsistencies in the relationship between the girls (maybe from condensing the novel too much?). And too many 'precious moments', despite my not giving a damn about any of them.

Poor guy behind me--he fell asleep right before the moonlight swim...

A Lit Chick said...

Yes I was! I wish I knew I would have asked you to buy me popcorn :) ... I'm surprised you were interested in this one. I thought it was a very cliche plot although I thought the girls quite good.

Chris Edwards said...

I like conflict-heavy movies if they're scripted with discipline, which this one wasn't.

Did you find the ending (that is, the very last scene) amoral? Di can get away with anything the screenwriter wants, I guess, but it's not effective if the audience is supposed to feel any sympathy for her. And I believe we're meant to.

A Lit Chick said...

Amoral? I'm not sure about that. It seemed sloppily written and lazily crafted. I liked the change in Di tho' and her response.

The film was beautiful to look at but as I said in my blog there is a preconditioned response to this scenario where we anticipate scandal and/or violence. It was totally predictable for me.