Tuesday, 4 January 2011
It is the study of a man who is in crisis and faces a choice to rehabilitate or destroy himself.
For long periods of time the camera just observes its subjects as they go about their business. In the case of our man, movie star Johnny Marco (Stephen Dorff) - battered but handsome – he attends a photo shoot; a press conference; accepts offers from willing admirers; and indifferently drives around in his black Ferrari. He has lost all interest and spark in his profession and 5 star lifestyle.
His 11 year old daughter, Cleo (Elle Fanning) comes to stay after her mother needs “a little time”. While it is clear he has not been a greatly involved father, Johnny loves and respects his child and together they do ‘stuff’ together : go to the ice rink, swim in the pool, play Wii and so on.
And this is what is so extraordinary about this film. There are no frenetic action shots. There are no lame fish out of water jokes. The film just observes these people, albeit in luxurious circumstances as they eat, sleep and play. Coppola has got the right mix between allowing us to get to know the characters by spending time with them yet not overstaying a scene.
I believe that Johnny’s happiest moment in the film is when he and Cleo are sunbaking by the pool. Both are lying on their backs, sunglasses on, eyes closed, fingers barely touching and slowly the camera pulls away to leave them there.
Fanning, as Cleo, is such a natural and she glows in each scene. She radiates that duopoly of little girl/young woman as her body is starting to mature – all arms and legs. And the simple joys of swimming in the hotel pool, preparing breakfast or guitar duels on the Nintendo with her uncle and father. This might be Johnny’s last chance to connect with his daughter while she still wants him around and for the most part he doesn’t disappoint. As she is approaching a change of life, so is Marco.
The film is digitally shot with a slightly washed out look and this creates two effects in my mind. One, it highlights the dishevelled disposition of the star, and two, it creates a documentary mindset that somehow we are observing a family rather than watching a movie about film stars.
4 out of 5.