Cracks (2009)

Cracks has a lot to say but not a lot of ways to say it, which I think will ultimately mean that a lot of viewers will be unhappy after it’s over. It doesn’t go for easy answers, it has a lot of subtleties that you’ll have to look out for, and I’m not sure how many people will really enjoy the ending. Looking at it now, the conclusion that the film comes to is the most logical one. It is not, however what we want to see.

We open in the 1930s at a preppy all-girls school of some unannounced religion (likely Protestant, although religion doesn’t factor in all that much). Our focus is a group of girls on the school’s diving team, whose coach is Miss G (Eva Green). At the first practice we bear witness to, it becomes clear that the favorite of the group is Di (Juno Temple). I’m not sure if she’s the best diver, but she gets the most laudation. As a result, she becomes the ringleader of this little group. They’re good girls, generally, although they’re not fond of people outside of the group.

Of course, once we learn that, there must be a newcomer. A Spanish aristocrat by the name of Fiamma (María Valverde) is coming to this school to join the diving team. Immediately, she shows off by setting the standard, pulling off a dive unrivaled by anyone in the group. Miss G especially notices her, causing immediate jealousy to rise up from Di. At night, before settling into their beds, Di explains that only five personal items may be displayed on the bedside table. Fiamma doesn’t care, and the rivalry begins.

These three characters dominate our picture, pushing supporting cast members to the background. Some of the other girls on the team manage to do something with their character to make her stand out, but Cracks is a three person show. As it plays out, we learn (or infer) things about each personality that we might not have thought, and there are definitely some surprises to be had. The third act especially is shocking, even though after it happens, you realize that this is pretty much how this story had to end.

There are some pretty important themes that Cracks deals with, although it’s too overloaded to really make an impact with any of them. Or, that’s what I’m getting on a first viewing. I’m almost certain that I missed some things, many of which could possibly enhance the viewing experience and allow you to realize the points that the film wants to get across. The general message, I don’t think, will be unchanged, but for finer plot points, I’m sure there’s more to them than you’ll realize on a first viewing.

It’s that type of feeling that makes me think that Cracks succeeds. While I didn’t dig as deep as perhaps I should have, I felt as if there was more to take. With a lot of films, you take everything early on, and then you get bored. This one’s story might not be top-notch, but the little details and multiple parts to that plot make it worth watching.

For instance, the relationship of Miss G, Di and Fiamma deserves much consideration. And why is she called “Miss G”? Surely her last name is appropriate for a school environment, so why is it hidden until one of the last scenes of the film? What is the true purpose of the school, and by extension, its teachers? What exactly happened in Miss G’s past that one of the other teachers refers to early on in the film? You have these questions throughout, and while most of them are answered sufficiently, you have to dig a little bit deeper to get to the real answer.

However, at surface level, the story isn’t necessarily that great or even entertaining. While the details certainly make it worth the effort, the second act is too long and doesn’t contain enough drama to make it worth the length. By the time we’re about to close, we’re definitely ready for Cracks to end. So is the character of Miss G, who becomes gloriously over-the-top. That’s not necessarily a criticism, but it’s hard not to laugh at some of the things Eva Green does with the role, even though you’re not really supposed to laugh at those parts. While the general atmosphere of this school is set well, tone is often all over the place.

Cracks marks the feature film debut of one Jordan Scott, the daughter of legendary director Ridley Scott. She shows us here that she has the chops to make it in the industry, and picked a genre that works perfectly for a lower budgeted production. Cracks is a drama, and it takes skill to pull off something like this and imbued it with enough depth to keep the interest of the viewer, especially when you’re working off a script based on a novel. She has tight constraints, but does a pretty good job working within them.

Cracks is a pretty good film that overcomes an overlong running time and slightly lackluster story thanks to the elements of depth included in the background and its fine actors. Given to a less talented first-time director, the detail would have been missing and we would have had to suffer through a story that’s not particularly unique or interesting. There’s a lot to take from this movie, and I have to recommend it for that, and also because you’ll probably want to see it more than once to catch points that you missed the first time around. I know I want to.

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