There is a sense of not knowing where to start with Coppola, she remains a slight enigma despite an achingly cool phone book and the rare ability to operate within Hollywood on her own terms. She revisits themes (fame, dislocation, fame, modern world, fame, absurdity of fame, fame etc) and if you discount Apocalypse Now, has retained her Father’s ability to keep the camera still and let the story tell itself. Admirable, all things considered.
Here, she gives us Johnny Marco; film star, whiskey drinker, womaniser and occasional father to an eleven year old girl. He’s presented as bored and numb, filling his days with sex he doesn’t enjoy and the pursuit of sex which he does. He drinks a lot and says very little, being as famous as he is, rooms and people revolve around him, he’s almost a bit player in his own indulgent dream. Then he gets lumbered with his daughter, Cleo, his normal patterns are disrupted and he starts to smile a little bit.
The treatment for this film could easily have ended up as a Disney vehicle for the Rock but in Coppola’s hands we get a careful, neo-real, darkly comic exploration of the trappings of (hands down at the back) fame.
There is a feeling that this really is what being a mega famous movie star is like, great and awful at exactly the same time. A life filled with obligations (press junkets, daughters, fans) and absolute freedom (almost unlimited money and power). Marco is played with knowing stoicism by Stephen Dorff (a man with “So Fucking What” on his c.v.), he is totally believable; beaten up by hard living, confident, sad behind the eyes. Exactly as you’d think in real life basically.
Cleo is played by Elle Fanning, she’s gangly and growing up but is more comfortable and in many ways wiser than her father. She is perfectly placed to hand out life lessons to Marco, a look here, a cough there, all shunting Marco back onto the straight and narrow.
Coppola keeps it simple, shooting with natural light, keeping even the bizarre situations (nude, male massage) believable and only letting the essentials make it to the final cut. A touching relationship is allowed to form between Marco and Cleo and the two share a chemistry that engenders sympathy towards Marco that is almost certainly undeserved. The comparisons to Lost In Translation are obvious but the twist in th central relationship lends a lovely fresh edge to the same story. After Marie Antoinette (fame again) it’s no surprise to find Coppola back in her wheelhouse. Lovely.