You may have heard this one before. Annabelle (Erin Kelly, channelling Leelee Sobieski) is the hellraising daughter of a US Senator, sent to a Catholic girls’ school to be out of sight and out of trouble. Her rebellious ways continue, however, and she falls in love with her poetry teacher Simone (Diane Gaidry). Much angst, particularly on Simone’s part, ensues, not to mention inevitable walks on the beach and much Lilith Fair-style musical noodlings (our heroines would clearly die of shock if they had a run-in with Maria Beatty), before the consummation and the rather sudden ending of the movie arrive.
Kelly and Gaidry turn in good work, and succinctness of the storytelling keeps the viewer’s interest. There is a larger problem, though, than the movie’s rather overdone storyline and not-terribly-original narrative technique. In the making-of featurette, writer/director Katherine Brooks acknowledges the inspiration provided by Mädchen in Uniform, and how she had wished the student and teacher had gotten together in that film because that would have been “hot.” All right, so that makes this pic something a fantasy. Fair enough. But she also wants a real-world tie-in to all the stories in the news about teachers arrested for having sex with their students, only her take is sympathetic. This leads to some intellectual dishonesty. Having the student actively seduce the teacher is a neat but cheap cop-out from dealing with the unbalanced, predatory power dynamic such a relationship implies. Any truly ethical teacher would have run in a blind panic from a student making the advances Annabelle does, but Simone only utters one line at the end of the film to suggest that her many haunted looks might have been caused by the notion that what she is tempted to do might be wrong. I have this sense of the film trying to have things both ways, and it simply can’t. But even with these knocks against it, it remains a not unengaging romance.
The 2.0 soundtrack is perfectly adequate to the movie’s needs. This is a film of soulful silences, quiet conversations, and acoustic guitar stylings, so no thunder is called for. The surround effects are extremely low key, but well handled when called for (such as in crowded scenes in the school cafeteria and the like). The dialogue is free of distortion.
The 1.85:1 widescreen picture is not anamorphic, and on big-screen televisions the difference is felt, with a loss of definition and solidity to the colours. There is also the concomitant increase in grain. Still, the colours are generally pleasing and natural. The image isn’t perfectly sharp, but as the focus is quite soft anyway, this isn’t a terrible distraction.
Brooks is joined by Kelly on the commentary track, which is a solid effort, clearly laying out not only the hows of the film but the whys of the script. The making-of featurette is standard fare but is also, as mentioned above rather revealing. So is the bonus short feature, “Dear Emily,” which suggests Brooks has a bit of a thing for Catholic girls’ school settings. The alternate ending is one we can be grateful was not used. The outtakes and deleted scenes are part of a single montage, and the still gallery comes in the form of a slide show. The trailer is joined by a those for numerous other Wolfe releases.
A film that is simultaneously likeable, sentimental, and disturbing for the wrong, unintended reasons.