St. Trinian's

St. Trinian's

2023 Queer Film Challenge #18: a film starring Stephen Fry.

Oof, this was a rough one. I almost noped out about ten minutes in, after the one-two-three punch of a racist joke, a man-in-a-dress joke and a child-abuse joke. But I decided to stick it out and, well... it did get better in some ways, but arguably worse in others. For starters: the child-abuse joke doesn't matter, because nothing matters in this movie. If a guy can fall multiple stories and land in a concrete fountain and only end up wet and annoyed, what's a little dragging-a-screaming-kid-behind-a-tractor between friends? The trouble is, though, if nothing shown on screen has any consequences, then nothing has any stakes either, and if nothing has any stakes then why should I care? The girls of St. Trinian's stage an elaborate art heist, but it's pretty much just a mishmash of tropes from other movies. They're not even spoofed; I guess the fact that it's teenage girls doing them rather than adult men is supposed to make it funny? And all that is so they can nab a world-famous Vermeer and sell it to a gallery owner who apparently hasn't realized that he can never display it without becoming the number one suspect in the theft.

Meanwhile there's a whole other high-stakes-but-really-no-stakes plot going on, this one involving a quiz show (hosted by Stephen Fry, playing himself) that three other St. Trinian's students are competing in. The only reason they signed up for the quiz show in the first place was to get access to the art museum, so once they're in, it shouldn't matter whether they win spectacularly or bomb every question. But the movie seems to have forgotten that, so it ratchets up the non-stakes by having the earpieces they're using to cheat conk out halfway through.

As for the man-in-a-dress gag, the character in question actually turns out to be one of the more developed ones in the movie, so for a while I thought that maybe it was just a bit of creative casting, having Rupert Everett play both brother and sister. And then I got to the end, where it's strongly implied that she raped Colin Firth's character while he was blackout drunk — played for laughs, of course — and suddenly the casting didn't seem so innocent anymore. Add to that a scene where a straight character has to pretend to be gay, only to be unexpectedly hit on by someone who actually is gay — also played for laughs — and you get what amounts to a very disappointing watch for a Queer Film Challenge.

The best thing about St. Trinian's is that it contains the Noisettes' "Don't Give Up," and the second best thing is Gemma Arterton's outfits. As fun as those two things are, they don't make up for the copious cringe.

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