Like some bizarre and ridiculous hybrid between The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie and Lord of the Flies, Cracks shows just how far you can get when you want to make movies and your father happens to be Ridley Scott.
Not that Jordan Scott is without talent. Cracks is visually accomplished, with strong performances from an all-female cast. But the script is so ludicrous that it's hard to focus on the film's few strengths.
Eva Green, drowning in mascara, plays Miss G, the most popular and apparently powerful teacher at an all-girls school on an island off the coast of England in the 1930s. Here's the first bit of silliness that's impossible to get past: Her power derives from her position as the coach of the school's diving team -- which never competes against other teams.
Here's the next: Though other girls are occasionally glimpsed in this remote academic outpost, the student body might as well consist of the half-dozen girls on the diving team -- none of whom seem to know much about diving. Neither does Miss G, for that matter, beyond urging the girls to "be bold." I wonder if that's what Greg Louganis' coach was shouting at him.
But despite the seeming absence of any other athletic endeavors -- or academic, for that matter, beyond letter-writing and flower-arranging -- the diving team is the school's snotty elite. They're led by Di (Juno Temple), who longs for Miss G's approbation and cracks a whip over the rest of the team.
Their pre-war idyll is shattered with the arrival of Fiamma (Maria Valverde), a supposed Spanish princess who apparently has been dumped in this musty British fortress by her uncaring father. She's advertised as a competition-quality diver before she arrives - and quickly shows that she not only far outclasses the team but also is sophisticated enough to spot Miss G for the phony that she is.
The rest of the film is a see-saw between the group ganging up on Fiamma and worshiping her. Oh, one other thing: She has a serious case of asthma. The first time she starts wheezing, the movie should flash a "Spoiler Alert" sign.
The dynamics of this all-girl setting -- the blossoming bodies, the repressive atmosphere, the frustrated libidos -- should provide enough fodder for an intriguing psychological drama. Instead, Scott and her cowriters keep threatening to turn this into a horror film -- or at least a psychological thriller -- without ever doing more than ramping up the melodrama and sexual innuendo.
Years from now, when you talk of this -- oh, who am I kidding? Cracks is a movie so silly it will be forgotten before the final credits roll.
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