Suspense runs dry in failed thriller Breaking the Girls

by Mark Burger

Breaking the Girls (*), which desperately wants to be a scintillating and sultry thriller, proves to be anything but. In fact, it proves to be very little at all.

Sara (Agnes Bruckner) is a graduate student who falls under the spell of Alex (Madeline Zima), who is rich, beautiful and — big surprise — possibly a dangerous psychotic. After a lesbian dalliance that’s far less sexy and daring than the filmmakers obviously think, it’s not long before Alex is trying to convince Sara to take a page from Hitchcock’s Strangers on a Train: If Sara will eliminate Alex’s stepmother (Kate Levering), Alex will do likewise to Sara’s campus nemesis (Shanna Collins).

No good can come of this, and on all counts it doesn’t. Most of the film’s plot twists are predicated on the ignorance or outright stupidity of its characters, duly provided by Mark Distefano and Guinevere Turner’s hackneyed screenplay. The story so depends on these plot twists, and is so consumed by them, that the overall narrative loses all credibility and lapses into abject silliness.

The actors struggle mightily to find something of substance to grab onto, but at every turn they are thwarted. Zima’s histrionics soon become wearisome, and Bruckner appears bored much of the time. Shawn Ashmore plays Sara’s lunkhead male love interest, John Stockwell briefly appears as Alex’s father (or is he her stepfather?) and Davenia McFadden gives a one-note account of the obligatory cop on the case. This is the sort of noir-ish potboiler better suited to cable-TV than the big screen. All that’s missing are commercial breaks.

Breaking the Girls runs under 90 minutes yet feels much longer, and director Jamie Babbit does nothing to help the cause by incorporating some drippy song montages that bring the film’s already-soporific pacing to a halt. Whodunit? That’s easy: This is one case where the filmmakers done it — and done it badly.

Breaking the Girls is scheduled to open Friday at the Geekhouse Coffeehouse Cinema in Greensboro.

LOG ONTO — click on the “Flicks” section. Then go to “What’s Showing”