St Trinian’s (2007)
Directed by: Oliver Parker, Barnaby Thompson | 100 minutes | comedy | Actors: Talulah Riley, Rupert Everett, Colin Firth, Jodie Whittaker, Gemma Artenton, Kathryn Drysdale, Juno Temple, Antonia Bernath, Amara Karan, Tamsin Egerton, Lily Cole, Paloma Faith, Holly Mackie, Cloe Mackie, Celia Imrie, Fenella Woolgar, Russell Brand, Tereza Srbova, Lena Heady, Caterina Murino, Lucy Punch, Anna Chancellor, Millie Foster, Mischa Barton
A comedy with names like Colin Firth and Rupert Everett, that exudes class. The class of Jane Austen films and plays by Oscar Wilde. The kind of class that in ‘St. Trinian’s’ is totally lacking, but that’s to be expected from a film set at an anarchic girls’ school. What is also missing is venom, and that is a missed opportunity. The film is a succession of adolescent jokes and underpants fun; bite-sized food for the target group of young girls, but the corniness quickly gets boring. How does the viewer know that boarding school is a brutal mess? Through the outline of a corpse in the stairwell. A joke that is so stale that it is slowly being allowed to go onto the compost heap. And so in ‘St. Trinian’s’ still more golden fainting.
‘St. Trinian’s’ is the sixth film in a series based on the cartoons by British cartoonist Ronald Searle. The first film, ‘The Belles of St. Trinian’s’, appeared in 1954. At the time, the concept of a school full of unhinged girls was quite daring, but in 2007 ‘St. Trinian’s’ counter the prevailing morality. Nowadays a lot is possible. What are those boarding school ladies doing? They stoke vodka, build bombs and cheat on hockey, but golden hearts thump behind the too-tight blouses. When things start to get really naughty, the camera turns away. The images must of course remain suitable for a twelve-year-old audience.
Fortunately, the cast is having fun with it; that is contagious. The big names do what they were hired for. Rupert Everett indulges in his dual role as headmistress Camilla Fritton and her scheming cousin Carnaby. Colin Firth gets to work with successful and less successful references to his earlier work. The scene where he is dripping on a lawn will bring nostalgia to any woman who has seen Pride and Prejudice, but for a dog named Mr. Darcy run into him? That’s only fun if you’re very corny or very drunk. And it is also questionable whether the target group where ‘St. Trinian’s’ aim at all has memories of a 1995 miniseries.
That target audience will be more interested in the charismatic young cast. Gemma Arterton in particular stands out because of her powerful appearance. No wonder the British beauty in ‘Quantum of Solace’ is allowed to share the screen with James Bond. Also BBC presenter Russell Brand, who had to leave the field in October 2008 for inappropriate jokes, deserves an honorable mention. In fact, he just plays himself: blunt and funny, on the cutting edge of eccentric and vulgar. However, the duo that provides the most successful jokes are the twins Cloe and Holly Mackie, who run the criminal circuit of St. Trinian’s like a kind of prepubescent mafiosi. Add to that a slick soundtrack, with unsurprising, but catchy girl bands like Girls Aloud, and you’ll understand why ‘St. Trinian’s’, despite a lukewarm reception by the press, still did good business in the cinema.
In a barrage of jokes, a few always hit the mark. ‘St. Trinian’s’ hits the mark like the school’s hockey team scores: by nailing the ball to the stick. Can’t miss of course, but they are balls without effect.