The premise of any movie or television series these days seems to fall into one of several categories. It’s either an original idea, a remake of a past movie, an adaptation of a television show from years past or a book that is getting made into a film. It seems like the latter two categories of film are getting made more times than not, with books being the preferred media to start with. That’s not to say that book movies can’t be good, because they can. But for every Harry Potter film series or Gossip Girl television series, there are plenty of television shows or films that just don’t measure up. The latest teenage book series to be turned into webseries and now has gone direct to video is Private.
Private follows the story of Reed Brennan (Kelsey Sanders), an average 15-year-old girl who has a pill-popping mother amidst a run-of-the-mill suburban life. Her luck changes when she wins a scholarship to the exclusive Easton Academy but when she arrives on the beautiful, tradition-steeped campus of Easton everyone is just a bit more sophisticated, a bit more gorgeous, and a lot wealthier than she ever thought possible. Reed realizes that even though she has been accepted to Easton it has not accepted her as she like an outsider looking in. That is until she meets the Billings Girls.
They are the most beautiful, intelligent, and intensely confident girls on campus. They hold all the power in a world where power is fleeting but means everything. Reed vows to do whatever it takes to be accepted into their inner circle. Using every part of herself to get closer to the Billings Girls, she wants to be invited to all of the secret parties where cute boys parade around them. But once inside their world she quickly discovers the Billings Girls are hiding more secrets and they will do anything to keep hidden to the world.
There is nothing original about the plot of Private. This film was marketed as being from some of the same people who created Gossip Girl, and you can spot the similarities immediately. This is basically your standard new girl fish-out-of-water story. You know, an average girl joins an elite private school, and has to fight off mean girls. All of the typical cliches are here, so there are no real surprises. There is a slight twist at the end that might shock some people but if you a veteran watcher of these types of shows or films it’s not all that surprising. If you think going in that things probably aren’t what they seem at first you would be mostly right.
Almost every character from this film is a stereotype. The acting is okay but no one really stands out. The cast has enough chemistry with each other to make things watchable. You probably can’t blame the actors as much as the writers, because there really is no depth to any of these people. Still better actors could have taken the cliched material and made it better. So unlike the cast of Gossip Girl, you probably won’t be seeing much of these kids in anything else besides this type of film or series.
Fans of the Private series of books will probably find plenty to like and dislike in the movie. Not everything that takes place in the film actually takes place in the books, which has to be expected. But the usual cattiness and mystery drama story that is central to the story of Private will still certainly please them. There are many reasons why a film gets released directly to DVD without a theatrical release first. The likely reason is that the film is just not that good, and that is clearly the case with Private. You have seen this story played out before on television and the big screen, and you’re better off skipping this one.
The video included is available in fullscreen color presented at the 1.33:1 aspect ratio. The quality is pretty basic, but no major problems here.
The audio included is available in basic English Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo sound. The dialogue and music come out loud and clear. So there are no major problems here either.
“PRIVATE: The Casting Call” Featurette –
This runs 8 minutes and we follow three young actresses as they attempt to win a role on Private. Kelsey Sanders and Brant Daugherty host this casting call competition as they put the girls through a variety of acting tests. It’s very much like a mini-reality competition show.
“Meet the PRIVATE Cast” Featurette –
This runs 3 minutes, and a brief meeting of the cast of this series, of course. They explain their characters and stuff.
“Our PRIVATE Crushes” Featurette –
This runs 3 minutes and this is pretty much like the previous featurette, but this one focuses only on the make cast members. Girls are suppose to go crazy over these guys or something.
“Meet the Billings Girls” Featurette –
This runs 3 minutes. See the previous two featurettes. This one focuses only on the female cast members.
“Meet the Screenwriters” Featurette –
This runs 3 minutes as well. Time to learn more about the women who wrote the screenplay for this movie.
“Life of a Hollywood Writer” Featurette –
This runs 3 minutes, and we are still listening to screenwriters, Veronica Becker and Sarah Kucserka, talk about what it’s like to write in Hollywood.
“Secrets of the Script” Featurette –
One more 3 minute chat with the screenwriters. This time they talk about their influences as far as writing screenplays go. They also talk about the differences between the web series and the books.
Sneak Peek at a PRIVATE Prequel –
You can also put this DVD of Private in your DVD-ROM and open a PDF file called “BOOK_OF_SPELLS.PDF” to view Chapter One of the Private prequel book, “The Book of Spells”.
It’s worth a rental, if you read and enjoyed the series of books that this web series and movie was based on. If you like Gossip Girl, this could be worth a rental too. But all others should just pass.
Alloy Entertainment presents Private. Directed by Dennie Gordon. Written by Kate Brian (novel); Veronica Becker and Sarah Kucserka (screenplay). Starring Kelsey Sanders, Samantha Cope, Natalie Floyd, Tristin Mays, Sanna Haynes, Chord Overstreet, Brant Daugherty, and Evan Taubenfeld. Running time: 100 minutes. Rated . Released on DVD: August 24, 2010.
I'm not embarrassed to say that my favorite television show of all-time is The O.C. I live by the motto "you can't fight fate!" More importantly, I watch WAY too much television, but I do so for the benefit of everyone reading this now. So to my mom and my wife, I say thanks for reading! To everyone else that might stumble across this, remember TiVo should be your best friend!