At a historical moment where social class and economic redistribution have entered the public consciousness (vis-à-vis both the lefty populist rhetoric of Occupy and Mitt Romney’s “47%” blunder), these movies cast the tenants of “good filmmaking” (sympathetic characters, compelling human drama, a coherent moral program) aside like last season’s Prada, articulating a worldview defined by stockpiling fancy things. They might be criticized as decadent and superficial, but isn’t that the point? They’re materialistic, but also materialist: intentionally or not, they expose the unquenchable, desiring logic of capitalism.
Crappy writing about film is the norm these days, and this is a good example of crappy writing about film. Nothing about the films, drop Zizek’s name, quote a famous critic, mention a theory while not applying it, and publish. Sounds intelligent. Is meaningless. Chloe Wyma implies, as the closing paragraph illustrates, that the films are good because they’re bad. Classic bullshit.
Wyma has no clue about materialism, philosophical and economic. On the other hand, her editor should have one and should have cut the final sentence. The play on words in Wyma’s coda is quite insipid. In addition, I’d like to know about a moment that isn’t a historical moment, for example all those billions and billions of moments prior to Occupy Wall St and Mitt Romney’s latest Presidential campaign where the public consciousness has, in fact, been focused on social class and economic redistribution. It’s clear Wyma has no eye for contemporaneity and original social difference. If she thinks it, everyone must think it.
This introductory sentence to Wyma’s conclusion is a ridiculous generalization. Be incorrect, make mistakes, take chances, be daring, but do not generalize like this. Maybe her imagined readers are sixteen-year-old Sofia Coppola fans who love dreaming about society played out in the sad lives of rich people on TV, in cinemas, and in fashion and music magazines and web sites. I don’t know. However, I do know who loves Lost in Translation. Chloe Wyma does.
So, what’s the point here? Is the point so innocuous—these three movies are crass examinations of people and their things or examinations of crass people and their things? And are they good films because Wyma is shocked that, in spite of herself, she doesn’t like the characters? I don’t know. A more honest focus on that sentiment—when I watch these characters I kind of want what they have in spite of being frightened of them (Spring Breakers), shocked by their behavior (The Bling Ring), and annoyed with them (The Great Gatsby); in these characters I see myself and I don’t like it though I kind of do—would be much more interesting, wouldn’t it? And it wouldn’t require such terrible attempts at referring to theory the author clearly hasn’t mastered and history she clearly doesn’t understand.