The Beguiled

Sofia Coppola’s minimalist take on sexuality and power is more thoughtful than the Clint Eastwood original but far less fun.

The Beguiled Poster The original Clint Eastwood adaptation of “The Beguiled” was a crazed, pulpy drama of sex and temptation. It’s a bit too nuts to take it truly seriously. That’s where Sofia Coppola comes in, whose gifts with minimalism can take even the wildest of subject matter and rope it into something contemplative and profound.

In her take on “The Beguiled,” Coppola has given the Civil War story a dusky air of dignity and style. She’s reframed it as a woman’s story of pent up frustration and emotion and how people cling to certain ways of life, rather than a man’s revenge tale against, as Colin Farrell puts it in the film, “vengeful bitches.”

That’s all well and good, but I like the crazy-eyed sexiness of the Don Siegel/Eastwood version. Coppola’s film has the themes and drama in the right place, but does her “Beguiled” have to be so buttoned up? Continue reading “The Beguiled”

The Bling Ring

With minimal stylization and embellishment, Sofia Coppola makes the fashion of The Bling Ring into a silly and mundane farce.


Sofia Coppola’s “The Bling Ring” rounds out a trio of movies over the last few months that dig into the mystical fascination with the have-more culture. Harmony Korine showed in “Spring Breakers” that this mentality can be disgusting and terrifying, Baz Luhrmann demonstrated with “Gatsby” that it can be destructive, and Coppola has shown just how boring and silly this affinity for celebs, fashion and luxury can be.

Coppola has waded these waters before, depicting the lives of the glamorous, wealthy and famous in quasi-comedies that feel dull, mundane and simplistic. Yet to call “The Bling Ring” her most high-octane movie yet doesn’t say much. It depicts the crimes of five Los Angeles teenagers with detached apathy, like Coppola is staring back at the vacuous on-screen teens with the same expressions they turn toward their parents.

Based on a true story, “The Bling Ring” begins with Marc (Israel Broussard), a new kid in school, making friends with Rebecca (Katie Chang). She admires his style, perhaps, and the two pass time sitting idly at the beach, calling out to friends with the poshest of pleasantries like “Yo bitch.”

She passively encourages Marc to start breaking into cars and homes with her. The two steal wads of cash and select purses, blouses and watches with ease, doing so not because it’s right or wrong or gives them a high but because it was there and it was easy. Continue reading “The Bling Ring”


Sofia Coppola’s “Somewhere” is not as successful at tackling the themes of “Lost in Translation,” but it does gives us a glimmer of hope

Never has a performance of two hot twin nurses spinning on stripper poles to the tune of Foo Fighters’ “My Hero” been as listless as it is in Sofia Coppola’s “Somewhere.” It’s not merely the story of a guy so jaded with these pleasures but of a person with so little going on in his life that this incident feels quite literally like nothing at all.

Coppola first introduces us to movie star Johnny Marco (Stephen Dorff) racing around a track in his Ferrari, an elegant, but obvious way of saying he’s going nowhere fast. In between films and sporting a broken wrist, his life has diminished to pure tedium.

He sits through mindless press conferences, interviews and awards shows and waits motionless as special effects artist smother him in clay. These are the more mundane moments of a movie star, but arguably still exciting enough for some people. Coppola however shoots without much focus in the frame, mismatched colors and a movie free of music that makes it appear as if these moments were non-events. Continue reading “Somewhere”

Rapid Response: New York Stories

“New York Stories” is three interesting, if flawed vanity projects from some of the best directors living, Martin Scorsese, Woody Allen and Francis Ford Coppola.

How come filmmakers don’t make love letters to Chicago? That’s the movie I want to see. There are already enough odes to New York, and even in 1989 when Martin Scorsese, Francis Ford Coppola and Woody Allen together made “New York Stories,” a collection of three short films taking place in the city, the three of them had already made movies in which the Big Apple was a vital player. None of these are as good as “Taxi Driver,” “Mean Streets” or “Manhattan,” and yet all three are at least interesting, if flawed vanity projects for some of the greatest directors living today.

New York Stories Life Lessons

“Life Lessons”

“Life Lessons” is so clearly a Scorsese film before the title credits even roll because of the stylization that dominates the film. Procol Harum’s “Whiter Shade of Pale” is blared at us as the camera lunges away from an abstract painting and swivels and edits with alacrity. It strongly asserts the magnetic, but strange relationship between the artist Lionel Dobie (Nick Nolte) and his young assistant Paulette (Rosanne Arquette). She’s returned to New York from a vacation in Florida even though she’s assured Lionel she is leaving and never coming back to him, a sure sign of how people may be reluctant to return to New York, but it always seems to call them back. Continue reading “Rapid Response: New York Stories”