The hothouse atmosphere of the private boarding school gets another airing in “Cracks,” a project from a new member of a filmmaking dynasty.
The story, adapted from Sheila Kohler’s novel, is set at St. Mathilda’s, a fictional school on a lonely British island in the mid-1930s. A privileged group of girls are in thrall to the glamorous, poetical Miss G, played by Eva Green.
Nobody would make a movie about a private English boarding school if everything went fine and the students all got along.
No, each one of these films must be a variation on “The Lord of the Flies,” with rivalries and jealousies and survival of the fittest.
Much of the drama in “Cracks” comes from the arrival of a new Spanish student named Fiamma (Maria Valverde), who may have royal blood and is definitely of the aristocracy.
She becomes Miss G’s new favorite, elbowing aside our more-or-less main character, a little conniver named Di (Juno Temple, “Kaboom”).
Although Miss G seems infatuated with the new student, the feelings are not reciprocated, maybe because Fiamma sees through Miss G’s pathological self-delusions and her manipulative treatment of her girls.
In casting the sultry Green, the star of “Casino Royale” and “The Dreamers,” as Miss G, director Jordan Scott is gifted with the actress’s genuinely eerie qualities. There’s a mystery about her, maybe the sense that her exaggerated beauty is on the verge of giving way to instability.
Plus, with Green in the role, you completely believe that the girls would be hypnotized. Whether reading poetry in class or leading her girls on a midsummer nighttime skinny-dipping rite of passage, Miss G means to seduce, an inclination that becomes much darker as the film goes on.
I’m afraid the movie is too heavy-breathing to be taken terribly seriously, but it’s entertaining enough until it goes off the rails toward the end. As a director, Jordan Scott has a polished, practiced eye and a firm sense of composition.
This should come as no surprise: She’s the daughter of Ridley Scott, director of “Gladiator” and “Blade Runner” (therefore niece to Tony Scott).
The Scott brothers produced this film, thus ensuring that the family tendency toward melodrama and slick photography will continue into the next generation.
The hothouse atmosphere inside an English girls school is stoked by a charismatic teacher (Eva Green) who tends to play favorites. We expect sinister behavior to come out of this setting, and it does, and the movie’s reasonably entertaining despite being too heavy-breathing to take seriously.
Rated: Not rated; probably R for nudity, subject matter.