"A Game for Girls" reps a more than promising start for novice helmer Matteo Rovere and his trio of exceptionally talented first-time thesps.

Though the script never develops beyond one-note nastiness, “A Game for Girls” (aka “Bad Girls”) reps a more than promising start for novice helmer Matteo Rovere and his trio of exceptionally talented first-time thesps. A little campy fun would have lightened this drama of a high school bitch out to bring her teacher down. But despite the unrelenting malice, which careens off into the ridiculous, Rovere proves he has style, making the first quarter feel more real than most Italo dramas. Nov. 7 release opened only modestly, steamrollered by “Quantum of Solace” and “High School Musical 3: Senior Year.”

At her school in Lucca, Tuscany, rich beauty Elena (Chiara Chiti) is queen, the kind of entitled girl who stashes drugs in the teddy bear that reassures daddy (Stefano Santospago) she’s a kid, though her decolletage screams “sexually available woman.” She rules her posse — Michela (Desiree Noferini) and Alice (Nadir Caselli) — with an iron fist, meting out punishment to maintain supremacy. When impossibly naive new teacher Mario (Filippo Nigro) tries to soften her with kindness, she determines to destroy him. Rovere handsomely captures this hothouse, but only the lensing is well-tempered.

A Game for Girls

Italy

Production

An 01 Distribution release of an RAI Cinema, Colorado Film production. (International sales: RAI Trade, Rome.) Produced by Maurizio Totti. Directed by Matteo Rovere. Screenplay, Teresa Ciabatti, Andrea Cotti, Sandrone Dazieri, Rovere, loosely based on the novel by Cotti.

Crew

Camera (color), Arnaldo Catinari; editor, Claudio Di Mauro; music, Andrea Farri; production designer, Eugenia F. Di Napoli; costume designer, Monica Celeste. Reviewed at Rome Film Festival (competing), Oct. 24, 2008. Original title: Un gioco da ragazze. Running time: 94 MIN.

With

Filippo Nigro, Chiara Chiti, Desiree Noferini, Nadir Caselli, Chiara Paoli, Valeria Milillo, Stefano Santospago, Franco Olivero, Elisabetta Piccolomini, Tommaso Ramenghi, Valentina Carnelutti, Cecilia Carponi, Lorenzo Fiuzzi.
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