Prior to the landmark films she’s made in her career, Sofia Coppola was simply known to many as the daughter of Francis Ford Coppola as well as gaining notoriety for her Razzie-winning performance in The Godfather Pt. III. Shortly after appearing in that film, Coppola was struggling to get projects going as she appeared in music videos for the Black Crowes, Madonna, and later the Chemical Brothers’ Elektrobank that was directed by her then-boyfriend Spike Jonze. Coppola’s aspirations to become a director did come with a project that was co-directed with Ione Skye called Bed, Bath, & Beyond that featured another director that was rarely seen. At the same time, she had already directed videos for Walt Mink and the Flaming Lips. Yet, it would be another film that would pave the way for Coppola’s arrival as a prominent director with a unique voice in the 16mm, black-and-white short film called Lick the Star.
Directed by Sofia Coppola with a script co-written with Stephanie Hayman, Lick the Star tells the story of a group of girls planning a scheme on some boys. When one of the girls becomes alienated by one of her friends in the clique, it would lead to some dire consequences. The 13-minute short recalls the future themes Coppola would explore in later films including alienation and the troubles of being a young woman. With a cast of mostly unknowns that would include Coppola’s cousin Robert Schwartzman and a cameo appearance from legendary director Peter Bogdanovich. Lick the Star is a promising, intriguing short from Sofia Coppola.
After getting her left foot injured, Kate (Christina Turley) returns to middle school after a few days of being in a hospital. Things have changed in the few days she missed school though one thing is still the same as Chloe (Audrey Heaven) is still the queen of the 7th grade. Along with Rebecca (Julia Vanderham) and Sara (Lindsy Drummer), they rule the seventh grade as they pull pranks and lord over the rest of their classmates. Kate is befuddled by their quote “lick the star” as it’s a code for “kill the rats” as Chloe and the gang plan to poison Greg (Robert Schwartzman) with arsenic from an idea they got from the book Flowers in the Attic.
After Kate got caught with a cigarette, the principal (Peter Bogdanovich) lists her as a non-student so she couldn’t attend proms or other school-related activities. With Kate out of the plan due to her hesitation, Chloe along with Rebecca and Sara go along. Yet, Rebecca and Sara starts to have second thoughts where Chloe treats them with contempt. Then when a minor conversation about history class is overheard, Chloe is suddenly the target of the entire 7th grade as she is suddenly made an outcast.
The film is about a girl trying to take revenge on the boys only to make herself become an outcast. Yet, there’s also the story of another girl who is unaware of her friends now becoming this clique as she finds herself isolated about the plan they do. Yet, it’s the theme of alienation that would become prevalent in the work that Sofia Coppola would have in her later films along with the theme of womanhood. Coppola definitely understands what teenage girls go through in dealing with isolation as well as not being able to understand the consequences when one believes she is the queen. Along with co-writer Stephanie Hayman, Coppola adds a sense of realism to the story along with stylistic dialogue that rings very true to what kids would say about anything.
The direction Coppola has is very stylish as Chloe’s entrance is presented in slow-motion with jump-cuts to play along to music by the Amps. Even as she creates haunting yet entrancing compositions with the four girls lying on the grass during gym class just acting cool. There’s a looseness to the presentation as well as the fact that it’s shot on location with real students of the school as extras. Yet, the realness of how kids act and behave during those time seem true instead of presented in such a melodramatic or overly-stylized fashion. Coppola’s striking compositions along with the way she frames scenes from the perspective of a student. The result is a truly fascinating yet engrossing short from Sofia Coppola.
Helping Coppola with her look is cinematographer Lance Acord, the photographer who would later work with her in films like Lost in Translation and Marie Antoinette. Acord’s grainy black-and-white 16mm look is truly fascinating from the bright sunny lights and white background where there is something that is fun to look at. When it’s night, the look is dark but with a tone that is truly foreboding. Acord’s work is phenomenal as he creates beauty to the film. Editor Eric Zumbrunnen does excellent work with the film’s stylized editing with its sense of rhythm and straightforward transitions. Even in Chloe’s opening arrival where the use of jump-cuts and slow-motion definitely lets the audience in on the fact that it’s not going to be some kind of Hollywood-standard kind of film.
Art director Kira Cunningham does very good work with the look of the lockers inside that’s plastered with photos and such with contributions from Leslie Hayman of The Virgin Suicides as a set dresser. Longtime associate of the Coppola family in sound designer Richard Beggs brings some fantastic work in capturing the sound locations and atmosphere of the school. The film’s soundtrack includes some noisy but catchy driven girl rock from acts like the Amps, the Go-Go’s, Kim Gordon’s Free Kitten project, and Land of the Loops.
The cast includes mostly unknowns with appearances from renowned director Peter Bogdanovich as the school’s principal and Sofia Coppola’s friend Zoe Cassavetes as the P.E. teacher. Sofia’s cousin Robert Schwartzman is very good as the girls’ enemy Greg while Julia Vanderham and Lindsy Drummer are excellent in their respective roles as Rebecca and Sara, two of Chloe’s friends who try to deal with Chloe’s attitude. Christina Turley is wonderful as Kate, Chloe’s injured friend who tries to deal with everything that is happening while being the only one who later sympathize what would happen to Chloe. Finally, there’s Audrey Heaven who is great as Chloe. Heaven delivers a cool yet stylized performance as a queen bee who is full of herself only to become isolated by her antics as Heaven is the real standout of the cast.
Lick the Star is a remarkable short film from Sofia Coppola that captures the world of alienation and girlhood with such captivating style and harsh realism. Fans of Coppola’s work will no doubt see this as a fascinating short that would set the stage for what would come from the famed director of films like The Virgin Suicides, Lost in Translation, and Marie Antoinette. In the end, Lick the Star is a wonderful short from Sofia Coppola.
Sofia Coppola Films: The Virgin Suicides - Lost in Translation - Marie Antoinette - Somewhere - The Bling Ring - A Very Murray Christmas - The Beguiled (2017 film) - On the Rocks - (The Custom of the Century)
Sofia Coppola Soundtracks: Air-The Virgin Suicides - The Virgin Suicides OST - Lost in Translation OST - Marie Antoinette OST - (The Bling Ring OST)
Sofia Coppola Essays: LIT 5th Anniversary Essay - Sofia Coppola: The Videos and Ads 1993-2008 - The Auteurs #1: Sofia Coppola
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