I went into this film knowing that celebrity culture is vain and damaging, and after the credits had rolled I still knew that and hadn’t had any of my assumptions or opinions challenged, strengthened or really tackled at all. This film simply says that celebrity can be intoxicating and that the criminals didn’t learn anything from being caught. Nobody here ever asks ‘why?’. Ultimately the film can be easily boiled down to it’s one minute and forty-seven second trailer as nothing more is developed beyond that. There you go, I’ve just saved you 85 minutes. Still, stick with me as there are a few elements which work in the film’s favour that are worth drawing attention to….
The best thing on display here is the acting, in particular Emma Watson’s work. She doesn’t get enough to do here in order to really excel, and neither do the rest of the cast, but in Nicki she has the opportunity to show several sides to her acting which we haven’t seen before. The rest of the cast all do perfectly acceptable jobs, but all they are asked to do is be irritating so, it’s hard to be too enthusiastic about them. The other element which really works for this film is the cinematography by the late Harris Savides. The visuals really pop and set up a great ‘trash culture’ tone.
There are a number of critics out there who have taken up the position that Coppola distances herself from engaging in the issues brought up by these events in order to remain impartial. This strikes me as just a shoddy excuse though. She still takes several barbed swipes against fame culture but gives no insight into why the kids acted how they did. Are we really going to believe that there is no depth to these people other than the lazily and vaguely defined ‘desire to be accepted’. How boring. Coppola’s attempt at detachment is really just a ploy to try and avoid the responsibility of truly engaging with the situation. There is also the idea that this is an impartial film, I’m not quite sure where that comes from. This is clearly positioned against the kids and fame culture, but not with any insight, merely snarky shots of Paris Hilton’s narcissistic cushion covers and particularly air-headed quotes from our main cast of characters.
I have to say I really had high hopes for this film. Sofia Coppola is a writer/director who can provide piercing insight into characters, just think of Lost in Translation, and this is material that’s ripe for discussion. Fame culture plays such a huge role in modern life and its waters run deep into all sorts of other pressing issues, so it is a great shame to see such a surface level, repetitive story here. It offers no attempt at insight, instead just invites us to laugh at the ridiculous show that unfolds before our eyes. There’s a lot of talent across the board here, but unfortunately this one just can’t quite get to grips with its subject matter.
What is the film’s greatest strength? It’s acting with particular praise going to Watson.
Its greatest weakness? It’s simplistic and slightly mindless look at fame culture.
Would I see it again? Not really, no.
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