RogerBW's Blog

Chastity Bites 16 May 2019

2013 horror/comedy, dir. John V. Knowles, Allison Scagliotti, Francia Raisa: IMDb / allmovie. Leah is a blue-state girl in a red-state town, trying to get into a good college by breaking a really big story in the school paper. But when a new "abstinence educator" comes to town it may be a bigger story than she can handle.

I wouldn't normally have looked at this without a recommendation, but I enjoyed Scagliotti's work in Eureka, and this is pretty much her only major film role. She has the lead here, and if the part (wisecracking girl surrounded by fools and knaves) doesn't stretch her far, she still manages to make it her own and give a distinctive performance.

What one would expect to be the other big role, the sinister "Liz Batho" who starts the abstinence pledge club for reasons of her own, is played by Louise Griffiths doing her best Jaime Murray (what a pity Murray herself couldn't have been got in, because she'd have done it a whole lot better). It's a basic scenery-chewing part calling for some lascivious line deliveries and she makes a decent fist of it, but nothing special.

More surprising, because she makes a lot of a part that would normally be underwritten, is Francia Raisa as Leah's crypto-lesbian best friend Katharine, who falls under the spell of the villain and thus provides the emotional investment (after all, why bother to save the bitchy girls when they won't even be grateful?). She manages to avoid whininess, and always retains a certain sympathy from the viewer even when Katharine's walking into an obvious trap; she may well be the best actor in the whole thing.

The script manages to provide flow and tension while also throwing in effective wisecracks about popular culture and the woes of feminism developing in isolation (even that's handled in a sympathetic manner). It doesn't avoid all the clichés that it might, but there are some very good parts.

Meanwhile the direction and cinematography… don't make themselves obvious at all, until you notice that every scene is adequately lit so that you can see what's going on (even in exterior night shots), the blocking is clear so that you can always work out who's supposed to be out of shot in which direction, and all the little niggles that accompany so much filmmaking are simply absent.

Not a film for the ages, sure, but I enjoyed it rather more than I was expecting to.

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