CRACKS Movie Review
Think Dead Poets Society with girls. Only, Miss G. ain’t no Mr. Keating, and unfortunately, director Jordan Scott (daughter of Ridley) ain’t no Peter Weir. Not yet, anyway.
CRACKS is set in a 1930s elite British boarding school for girls. The story focuses on the school’s “diving team,” a group of pre- to late-teen girls who never actually compete against any other teams because, well, the school is on an island somewhere in the UK, and there’s to be no escaping from the pretty little bubble the filmmakers have erected for us.
Lily, Laurel, Rosie, Fuzzy, and Poppy (Imogen Poots of “Me & Orson Welles”) are kept in check by their snarky ringleader Di (Juno Temple of “Atonement” and the 2011 Sundance film “Kaboom” by Greg Araki). Di is the protégé of their beloved teacher, coach and mentor, the eccentric Miss G, played to the hilt by the smoky Eva Green (“The Dreamers,” “Casino Royale”). Every cigarette, lacy flapper dress and romantic chanson we’ve come to expect from the era is embodied in Miss G’s notions of what she ought to be teaching her girls. Diving is not about competition. Learning is not about knowledge. Travel is not about landmarks. Everything in life comes down to one word: desire.
Which causes no end of trouble when Fiamma (Maria Valverde), the gorgeous new Spanish child of aristocracy, arrives with valet staff in tow and no desire to associate with, let alone follow the rules of Di and her new bunkmates. Is she the most beautiful? Yes. The best diver? You betcha. Does she share her care package of unspeakably decadent treats to win over her schoolmates? Yep. All of this sends Di into a fury surpassed only when Miss G herself begins to favor Fiamma over her, as much for the Spaniard’s unusual worldliness (she’s traveled to all the best places that Miss G has told her students about) as for her not so innocent sexual past — Fiamma has been sent to the school because she dared to have a tryst with a commoner.
And here’s where the story goes off the rails. We learn more and more about the girls, who are more or less what we expect. Naïve, eager to learn and to be accepted. Fiercely loyal. But the more we learn about Miss G, the more perplexing the story becomes, culminating in a way-too-quick acceleration of everything that’s wrong with this little clique.
The performances are pretty good throughout; Temple really stands out as the enfant terrible, and it would be a huge surprise if we didn’t see a lot more of the versatile and gorgeous Valverde.
Through mostly no fault of her own, Green ends up looking the worst of this bunch. Due to her character’s lack of motivation and background information, and the place she eventually has to take her, in the end she seems simply lost in a sea of affectations and melodrama, without even our empathy for a life raft. The development process did not do her any favors in this drama that exists as basically a boogeyman story with an otherwise well-meaning person as its monster.
This may end up being one of those movies that is looked back upon because so many of its young actors go on to become big stars. But it won’t be studied in screenwriting classes, except perhaps as a cautionary tale.