Sassy Pants: Santa Barbara Film Review

This tart coming-of-age satire is given a sweet boost from its seasoned cast.  

A home-schooled teen is desperate to get out from under the over-protective wing of her control-freak mother in Sassy Pants, an edgy comedy from writer-director Coley Sohn that had its premiere at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival.

Spun-off from Sohn’s award-winning 2009 Sundance short, Boutonniere, the crisp satire can’t sustain the bite of its admittedly tasty first half-hour, but it maintains an agreeable irreverence on the strength of its well-cast ensemble headed by Ashley Rickards, Anna Gunn and an all-grown-up Haley Joel Osment like you’ve never quite seen him before.

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That cast alone should ensure that Sassy Pants travels beyond the festival circuit to a pick-up from a savvy distributor.

Graduation Day couldn’t have arrived fast enough for Bethany Pruitt (Rickards) named Valedictorian by her perky but overbearing home-schooling mom, June (an absolutely terrific Gunn), who’s still seething over her divorce from her not-so-secretive gay husband, Dale (Diedrich Bader).

VIDEO: Haley Joel Osment Sports Cutoffs, Piercing, Bangs in 'Sassy Pants' Trailer 

Feeling like a prisoner in her own bedroom—the one with an intense color scheme that can best be described as mid-century Pepto-Bismol—Bethany runs off to live with her dad and his new, younger bartender boyfriend Chip (Osment, with a pierced lip and short shorts), while pursuing her fashion designer ambitions selling clothes at the trendy/tacky mall fashion store, Jail Bait.

There has been no shortage of suburban satires, both of the big and small screen varieties, and although Sassy Pants doesn’t break any fresh ground, Sohn’s got a talent for placing offbeat characters in colorful settings.

Thanks to her cast of pros, they still manage to retain a necessary sweetness.

Gunn, who plays Skyler White on Breaking Bad, is scene-stealing good as the uber-homemaker with good intentions beneath all that suffocating mothering; while Rickards (One Tree Hill, Fly Away), tempers her determination with a nice wide-eyed naivetee.

Bader and Osment also hit their entertaining marks, as does Jenny O’Hara (channeling Shirley MacLaine) as June’s piece-of-work mother.

Behind the scenes, production designer Rachel Payne has fun with the overstuffed home décor and costume designer Mairi Chisholm has her hands full dressing those Jail Bait mannequins in all that trashy merchandise.  

Venue: Santa Barbara International Film Festival 
Production companies: Ministry of Content, Sassy Pictures, Spruce Street Films, Urbanite
Cast: Anna Gunn, Ashley Rickards, Haley Joel Osment, Diedrich Bader, Jenny O’Hara
Director-screenwriter: Coley Sohn
Executive producers: Eyde Belasco, Paul Korver, J.B. Popplewell
Producers: Pavlina Hatoupis, Adam Wilkins
Director of photography: Denis Maloney
Production designer: Rachel Payne
Music: Angela Correa, Joshua Penman
Costume designer: Mairi Chisholm
Editors: Robin Katz, Kindra Marra
Not rated, 87 minutes.