St Trinian's

St Trinian's


Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

Some 53 years after chalking up its first St Trinian’s romp, Ealing Studios have gone back to school. While the decision to revisit the anarchic girls’ school first envisioned by cartoonist Ronald Searle may be quite a long way from top of the class, it is one of the better comedies to come out of Britain this year – although that may well be to damn it with faint praise.

Although the plot is as familiar as the sock-shaped present under your Christmas Tree it is reasonably clever – in some ways hanging together rather more than the original Belles Of St Trinians, on which this film is loosely based. It involves a new kid in school, the incredibly posh (of course) and wet-behind-the-ears Annabelle Fritton (Talulah Riley), grand-daughter of the headmistress (Rupert Everett, who like Alaistair Sim in the original, pulls double duty as Annabelle’s dad).

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The school is facing the threat of closure thanks to Colin Firth’s zealous education minister Geoffrey Thwaite and a heist plot is hatched to steal Vermeer’s Girl With A Pearl Earring. Everett almost single-handedly sustains the film, thanks to a nicely pitched turn as the headmistress with a heart and an ability to turn a blind eye to her ‘girls’ more boisterous antics, ably helped by a nice subplot about a previous romance between her and the minister.

Firth, meanwhile, takes the sending up of his entire film career – from Pride And Prejudice to Girl With A Pearl Earring, with even a small nod to Trauma – with good grace, although how many of these knowing little gags will be understood by younger teens is debatable. Russell Brand proves to be a decent choice as Flash Harry, but his lines are lacklustre and character so thinly drawn, he’s barely there.

In fact, script-writers Piers Ashworth and Nick Morcroft are juggling a whole set of problems when it comes to the humour. Their primary difficulty is how to depict anarchy in the modern world. To appeal to the target audience – mainly 12 to 15-year-old girls – the action has to have some edge, but some parents may feel uncomfortable with the way both promiscuity and, more worryingly, drug-taking are used to suggest the girls’ rebellious streak.

An odd double-standard is in evidence, particularly in a scene which condemns cigarette smoking that comes hot on the heels of scenes of the school secretary offering uppers and downers to all and sundry (although, only those over-age, of course). Equally, there has clearly been an effort made to avoid accusations of paedophile pandering. All the first-years are dressed prim and properly and firmly relegated to the ‘geek’ end of the action – cooking up dynamite and vodka (they don’t drink it, just ship it). But once you get higher up the school, it seems it’s okay to show girls embracing the idea of being ‘posh totty’. Admittedly, the sixth formers are all played by people who will never see 18 again but it still feels like a mixed message. There is a vague attempt to redress the balance by suggesting it is cool to be smart, but it is little more than a sticking plaster over the issue.

Certainly, this is a mildly entertaining watch – probably more so for 12-15s, who will doubtless enjoy some of the film’s more slapstick anti-establishment moments – but it already feels a little out of time and is set to date badly, thanks to a series of very ‘in’ references, which will see its star rating drop year-on-year. Makes the grade in 2007, but only just.

Reviewed on: 26 Dec 2007
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Trouble is brewing at the anarchic girls' school thanks to a zealous education minister.
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Director: Oliver Parker, Barnaby Thompson

Writer: Piers Ashworth, Nick Moorcroft, based on the drawings of Ronald Searle

Starring: Rupert Everett, Colin Firth, Talulah Riley, Russell Brand, Gemma Arterton, Jonathan Bailey, Mischa Barton, Antonia Bernath, Anna Chancellor, Lily Cole, Nadine Coyle

Year: 2007

Runtime: 101 minutes

BBFC: 12A - Adult Supervision

Country: UK


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