I went into Pretty Persuasion expecting a shocking comedy about profoundly awful people saying and doing venomous things. I kind of got these things. Except for the "comedy." Certainly, the film made me laugh - but like the scene in The Producers when the "Springtime for Hitler" number is over. Remember that scene? That feeling for 110 minutes. That's Pretty Persuasion.

Evan Rachel Wood plays Kimberly Joyce, the most evil character in the history of high school movies (the femmes fatales from Heathers and Mean Girls aren't even in the same moral universe). She is racist (the post's title comes from her), a liar, a sexual user, and she utterly lacks the concept of sympathy for other people. Seeking fame, she falsely accuses her English teacher (Ron Livingston) of sexual abuse. She ruins the lives of many people, and never seems concerned with anything greater than her acting future.

She manages to be the most vicious character, but it's not for lack of competition: the selfsame teacher is a pedophile who lacks the guts to act on his desire (and the movie makes it clear that he's not refraining because of morality); Kimberly's father is played by James Woods (need more? Okay, he's a racist and misogynist, and ignores his daughter); the reporter covering the case (Jane Krakowski) breaks every conceivable journalistic ethic to further her career. All of the actors carry off their roles with perfection; in a more perfect world, Evan Rachel Wood would be the It Girl of the teen crowd, but I guess we should be grateful that while the Lohans and Duffs make movies like Raise Your Teenage Drama Herbie, we have an actual honest-to-God actress in the new generation (and she was home-schooled in high-school. Which totally provides me a pick-up line if I ever meet her).

The characters are all so unremittingly foul, in fact, that it tends to kill the humor. In the trailer, devoid of context, the lines are shockingly funny, but in the film they are just shocking, and eventually not even that. We come to expect no good whatsoever, and we get it. But with no-one to root for, the film become increasingly dark and hateful. By the end, we just want Right to win out, we know it won't and we sit there helplessly watching good things happen to very bad people. And it's good drama, sure, but it's hard to laugh, unless it's the laughing you do because it's too uncomfortable not to.

The movie does not, I want to make clear, excuse the behavior of the characters. In fact, there is a subtle and surprisingly well-earned connection made between Kimberley's behavior and the actions of the unpopular kids who take guns into the cafeteria and kill their classmates. Which may be a bit harsh, but that doesn't mean it can't be accurate. Sociopaths are sociopaths, whether their weapon is an automatic rifle or their wits. And here I was expecting a slightly meaner Election.