As I’ve said before, I don’t tend to watch a lot of Dramas… mostly because I have quite a low threshold for uncertainty and ambiguity. When you’re watching a mainstream comedy or action flick, you can generally count on the fact that most of the characters you’ve come to care about will live to see the end titles… but with Dramas, all bets are off, so it can make for a rather tense viewing experience. And Cracks (2009) is a classic example of this: Set in an isolated, island-bound boarding school in the 1930s, the story centres on a clique of girls, led by the autocratic swim-team captain ‘Di Radfield’ (Juno Temple), who idolises their enigmatic instructor, ‘Miss G’ (Eva Green). Enter a willful new girl named ‘Fiamma Coronna’ (Maria Valverde), who catches Miss G’s eye with her exotic Latin beauty, gymnastic high-board dives and globetrotting anecdotes. So, you have raging teenage hormones and repressed juvenile jealousy, simmering away in the social pressure-cooker of a single-sex school, located next to a large, unguarded body of water and a dark, dense forest! What could possibly go wrong? Ack! I was on tenterhooks the whole way through… and I know that’s part of the appeal of films like this one, so I won’t spoil any plot details here. All I will say is that I thought it was going to be quite staid and stately at first, but it actually gets quite demented and melodramatic towards the end… in a good way, I mean. Two thumbs-up from me!
Not to sound shallow, but my first thought when Temple appeared on screen was “Is that her natural hair colour?” You get so used to seeing her as a blonde, but here she has a wavy brown bob that seems to match her eyebrows… and I thought it rather suited her. Then again, so did the ginger curls she had in Atonement… and the bleached braids she had in St Trinian’s… so I guess what I’m trying to say is that she looks mighty fine however you style her hair! She also gives a very disarming performance here as Di… even when she’s lording it over Fiamma, it’s hard not to feel a little sad for the girl, because her crush on Miss G makes her so heartbreakingly vulnerable… especially as it becomes increasingly obvious to the audience that her unquestioning faith in her bohemian mentor might be a tad misplaced. Not that you can blame her for being so besotted, of course… if I’d had a teacher who looked like Green when I was growing up, who took me out for quiet tête-à-têtes in a rowboat, and slipped me “corrupting” literature on the sly, I’d have gone doolally for her too. Now that Camelot has come to an end, it was rather comforting to see Green again… and it’s fascinating to follow her character arc… or downward spiral, as it were. Obviously, it’s quite a serious, tragic story, but there were also several moments of wry humour at her character’s expense… or, at least moments I took to be humorous. Maybe I just have a warped funny bone? Either way, you can’t say she didn’t put her all into the performance! Apparently Valverde hasn’t done many English-language films, but she ably acquits herself here in a very challenging role, so I hope she doesn’t make herself a stranger to our shores. Oh, and a tip of the hat to Imogen Poots, who is very funny as Di’s cheerfully morbid chum, ‘Poppy’.
[On a more personal front, I can’t shake the feeling that Temple would be a perfect fit for one of the characters in my sitcom. I’m tempted to try sending her the synopsis via her agent, but she’s probably too busy storming Hollywood (and Gotham) at the moment to indulge an aspiring writer like me. Dammit!]