Like everyone, I enjoyed Lost in Translation and thought Marie Antionette was a piece of bunk. I was semi-curious to see this, but obviously not that much, as I had given up on it but that a friend of mine wanted to see it as much as anything else. It ended up meriting exactly that low level of enthusiasm.
At least Sofia Coppola had the sense to drag Stephen Dorff out of wherever he was and put him in a movie--he’s always been better than anything I’ve seen him in, and I thought it was a shame he didn’t get more attention. Here he plays Johnny Marco, action movie star, who has moved into the Chateau Marmont, which is apparently some well-known hotel catering to celebrities, and has a reputation of a place stars go and live in a kind of luxurious dissipation. The first thing we see in the film is Johnny driving his sports car around and around a circular track. I think your metaphor senses should be tingling. Then he retires to his room, where he gradually falls asleep as two strippers half-heartedly go through a pole dance routine in his room. The reason the stripper scenes are mentioned so much in reviews are that a) it has strippers, and b) because it really is a wryly hilarious and effective image. My FAVORITE detail of these scenes is that Johnny has a volume of Proust on his side table. He has the strippers in again later, where they dance as the Foo Fighters sing “Where is my hero?” Johnny periodically gets texts from someone who says things like “Why are you such an asshole?”
Eventually his ex-wife calls and tells him he has to take care of their daughter, Cleo, for a while. He watches her do her figure skating to Gwen Stefani singing “After all that we’v been through, I know we’re cool,” i.e. even though he doesn’t see his daughter that much, they have a good relationship. Over the course of the rest of the film, they go here, go there, do this and that, hang out, etc., and we in the audience are supposed to be gently moved by the fleeting moments, the delicate human connection, etc. They live in a kind of bubble of luxury, cut off from the real world, blah, blah. It essentially continues like this until the expected gently poignant(R) scenes come to cap it off, and we’re out!
The poignant scenes come from Cleo suddenly getting sad and saying “I don’t know when Mom’s coming back!” Then, at the very end, as Johnny is sending Cleo off to camp, he says I’m sorry I haven’t been around,” but his words are drowned out by the poignant helicopter! It’s a knife in the heart! If, you know, you weren’t expecting the movie to end like this since before you even saw it.
When it was over, I had a good new metaphor for Coppola: She’s that well-meaning woman who keeps asking you over to dinner, but only knows how to make one dish. And, it must be said, hasn’t bothered to learn to make any other dishes. I suspect she is mired in the mindset that what’s important as an artist is to dig deeper into herself and express HER personal vision, not recognizing that her personal vision is fairly shallow, and was fully explored a few movies ago. And if not, it certainly is after this. Maybe she and Wes Anderson can deliver a double-feature in the More of the Same film festival.
This is still a good movie, and if you’d never seen Lost in Translation it would be fine--although still quite small and slight. Although if you’ve never seen Lost in Translation, you should probably watch that one. Not much more to say here.
I wouldn't bother.