Film review: St Trinian’s (2007), directed by Oliver Parker and Barnaby Thompson
Picture the worst boarding school for girls ever. Picture the best boarding school for girls ever. The first one is called St Trinian’s, the second Cheltenham Ladies’ College. The second school is where Annabelle Fritton (Talulah Riley) used to go, before her father Carnaby (Rupert Everett) decided to place her with his sister Camilla (also Rupert Everett), headmaster of St Trinian’s.
Annabelle isn’t happy, and the girls aren’t particularly welcoming either. Head Girl Kelly (Gemma Arterton) introduces her to the other girls, amongst which we find Jodie Whittaker, Tamsin Egerton, Juno Temple and singer Paloma Faith. We learn that the girls aren’t so much out of control, as rather in control … of the whole school, and the teachers (includes Russell Brand, Lena Headey, Fenella Woolgar and Celia Imrie) are aiding and abetting them.
Thing is, the worst school in Britain are in financial difficulties. The Bursar (Toby Jones) is trying to get this fact to the headmistress’s attention, but she’s not listening. This – coupled with the fact that the Minister for Education, Geoffrey Thwaites (Colin Firth), wants to make his mark by reforming the school into something proper – spells trouble for the juvenile delinquents.
What the girls must do, in order to prevent the school closing down and thereby forcing them to go to real, proper schools (oh the horror!!) is to get lots of money very quickly. Seeing as how they’re already producing moonshine on an industrial scale and even run a phone sex line, crime is second nature to them. They decide to steal a portrait of Scarlett Johansson – i.e. Vermeer’s Girl with a Pearl Earring – from the National Gallery.
Shoutouts: Ben Willbond (Horrible Histories) as a traumatised school inspector, Stephen Fry as himself as a game show host, Lucy Punch as posh Verity Thwaites, Anna Chancellor as Miss Bagstock (the teacher from Cheltenham’s), girl group Girls Aloud, and apparently even Nathaniel Parker manages to cameo as the Chairman of the National Gallery, but I don’t even remember seeing him.
It’s a riot of a film to watch. It beggars belief, certainly, because I think it’s fair to say no real life school could ever be quite like St Trinian’s and get away with it, but that’s the beauty of fiction. The characters are over the top, the pupils are the stuff of nightmares (kudos to the twins, they were brilliant) and the references to Pride & Prejudice had me giggling. For instance, there’s a scene with Colin Firth in a dripping, white shirt, wearing an expression very similar to that of Mr Darcy walking towards Pemberley.
Thing is, it’s also very funny. Colin Firth is great as a comedy actor, he certainly does deadpan very well, and Rupert Everett in drag also draws a smile. It must have been so much fun to shoot this film!
While I wonder why they had to use a wire from one side of an open space to another (wouldn’t it have been easier to just walk around it using the actual walkway thingies???), and not being found out about cheating in a game show and so on, it doesn’t matter. It’s fun, it’s lighthearted and I, for one, am terribly amused. Not laughing my head off, but laughing out loud here and there, and at least sporting an amused smile for the other part. Well done!
4 out of 5 traumatised school inspectors.