One year before “The Virgin Suicides” and four before “Lost in Translation,” Sofia Coppola moved away from an acting career she never wanted to have to telling her first stories as a director. Her 1998 film “Lick the Star” shows off the type of visual storytelling Coppola would come to make for herself: The slow-motion jump cuts, stylized performances and pitch-perfect choice of punk music.
“Lick the Star” tells the story of a group of girls planning a scheme on some boys (it involves arsenic, an idea they took from “Flowers in the Attic”). The central character, Kate, returns to school after a few days in the hospital and finds herself in an ever-shifting environment where seventh grade queen bee Chloe is getting in with her friends… until an unfortunate game of telephone ostracizes Chloe and puts Kate back where she belongs. It’s a cast of unknowns, save for director Peter Bogdanovich and friend of Coppola Zoe Cassavetes showing up as principal and PE teacher, respectively.
Visually, we immediately understand outcast Kate and seventh grade star Chloe as Sofia Coppola characters. The opening montage of Chloe’s entrance to school scored to music by the Amps is something right out of “The Bling Ring,” and wide shots of Kate alone link her with the female loneliness of “Marie Antoinette” and “Lost in Translation.” On its own, it’s a compelling, if brief story that’ll make you long for when every budding filmmaker’s first short had to be shot on 16mm film.