Review: 'California Scheming' isn't a well-developed plan

Charles Manson has been behind bars since 1969, but he's still a hero to budding sociopath Chloe. When the prep-school dropout declares early in the film that her master plan is to become famous, it's clear she's trouble: In the movies, only bad people pursue fame.

In her thick eyeliner and all-black outfits, Chloe (Gia Mantegna) could be just another cyber-bullying mean girl. Her greatest asset as a destroyer is her ability to hide in plain sight.

But she's also model-gorgeous, which is how she gets two dopes to mistake her manipulations for fun. Nick (Devon Werkheiser) and Jason (Spencer Daniels) aren't stupid; Chloe is just so beautiful that getting to be around her is its own triumph.

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When the boys introduce shy Hillary (Rachel Seiferth) to Chloe, they unwittingly bring a lamb to slaughter.

Writer-director Marco Weber's unsatisfying Malibu thriller is burdened by uneven performances and a surfeit of half-developed ideas. The film is rescued from its own lumbering self-seriousness by Weber's sensitive portrayal of teen dynamics, but it's never as scary or as creepy as it needs to be.

Chloe's secret war against Hillary finds an especially implausible resolution that's less convincing an example of girl-on-girl violence than mud wrestling. For all her affected cool, Chloe's still just a poser.


"California Scheming"

MPAA rating: R.

Running time: 1 hour, 39 minutes.

Playing: At AMC Universal Citywalk Stadium 19, Los Angeles; AMC Orange 30, Orange. Also on VOD.


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