Saturday, January 5, 2013

Poor Little Rich Girl or Why I Hate Sofia Coppola(’s Work)

Last night I watched the latest entry in Sofia Coppola’s “poor-little-rich-girl” oeuvre, “Somewhere.” Throughout the movie, we watch a presumably talented (although we are never given an example of that talent) movie star named Johnny Marco (played by Stephen Dorff) as he traipses around the world, staying at trendy hotels like the Chateau Marmont in Los Angeles (or a hotel suite in Italy with its own private swimming pool), having beautiful women throw themselves at him and hotel concierges and limousine drivers accede to his every command. The only source of conflict here is that Johnny’s daughter shows up in the middle of the movie and Johnny then has to drop her off at summer camp while he goes back to the Chateau Marmont. This makes Johnny very sad. Boo fucking hoo.
At the end of the movie, Johnny is seen driving off into the desert and then he gets out of his car and starts walking along the highway. Roll credits.
What is this love affair that film critics have for movies with no script? This isn’t a movie so much as a series of seemingly improvised vignettes.
If you recall, “Lost in Translation” was another variation on this theme, this time starring Bill Murray as the movie star that people throw themselves at and Scarlett Johannson as his love interest who is married to another man with a fashionable career (a fashion photographer). There is almost no dialogue in this movie and yet it won the Academy Award for Best Screenplay. Has the Best Screenplay Oscar become the Best Independent Film Oscar? And, if so, why did it go to “Lost in Translation”?
“Marie Antoinette,” Coppola’s last “poor-little-rich-girl” story, actually did have some dialogue as well as some other things to recommend it: great costumes and locations (Versailles) and an anachronistic rock score. And, unlike the other two movies I mentioned, there are actually some consequences for this unsympathetic character’s behavior, although I suppose we’re supposed to feel sorry for her, too.
I suppose the die was cast when Coppola made her first movie, a segment in the omnibus “New York Stories” about a poor-little-rich-girl who lives at the Sherry Netherland hotel.
At this point you might say, “Wait a second. Wasn’t Sofia Coppola a poor-little-rich-girl herself? Wasn’t she the daughter of film director Francis Ford Coppola and didn’t she spend her childhood being chaperoned from one hotel to another and shouldn’t you write about what you know?”
Yes, but that doesn’t mean we should have to watch her home movies.

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