Tuesday, 22 January 2008

The Good, The Bad, and the Cinematic: St. Trinians

What is perhaps saddest about St. Trinians as a film is that it is defined for me not by its quality, nor by its occasional moments of genuine comedy, and not even by its small but rather choice selection of hot young things. No, St. Trinians will be defined to me solely as 'the last film I watched in the cinema before I got my unlimited pass'. That's sad really, especially for a film aiming to re-ignite interest in a British institute long since forgotten by the new generations of cinema-goers.

Why does this film let us down, then? Well, first and foremost is its intrinsic lack of originality not simply within the context of cinema, but even within the St. Trinians series. Was the producer's smartest decision simply to rehash the plot of the original Belles of St. Trinians? No, not really. Not even if this film is a 'reimagining' rather than a sequel. The plot was tired and stretched paper-thin.

The writing, it has to be said, is not to fault. Rather, the directors, the crew and the older actors who should have know better are to blame. As filmmaking goes, St. Trinians was a shoddy example of what could barely pass here as a 'craft'. As acting goes, whilst the young actresses do their best, and for the most part do not embarrass themselves (Lucy Punch being one notable exception as the daughter of Firth's character), it is the more experienced actors who let the film down most often. Rupert Everett pushes both his roles into new levels of misjudged comedy campness, and Colin Firth should really be elsewhere. Like back in the mid-nineties, when his wet-shirt look was fresh and brought mothers everywhere to their knees. In St. Trinians he just looked like a damp squib. What the fantastic Toby Jones was doing in this film remains a mystery.

There were moments that were funny, yes. Generally whenever the two young twins and their pyrotechnics were onscreen the film picked up, albiet briefly. Seeing the most annoying girl in the film get hit in the head during hockey - that was enjoyable. But for every cheeky moment of giggles there was an equally awkward moment of a joke fallen flat or involving the 'chemistry' between Everett and Firth. If that didn't offense you could be sure the desperate attempt to cosy up to American teen comedies by stereotyping horrifically would. One early scene felt like a crossover between MTV, Bratz and Brat Camp as head girl Kelly (a shamelessly sexy Gemma Arterton) shows a newcomer the various social groups of the school - chavs, emos, posh totty, first years and so forth... it echoed a similar but far more successful scene in the far superior school-based comedy Mean Girls.

Ultimately, the film is flawed, and very obviously so. The performances from the young female cast and the occasional joke that works save it from utter oblivion, but this is not a film that will do anything great for British cinema here or abroad.


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