Tag Archives: sofia coppola

On The Rocks

Laura (Rashida Jones) has what looks like a perfect life: beautiful New York apartment, sweet little girls, a room of her own in which to write, a handsome and successful husband…and yet. And yet, something’s a little lacking. The early days of their marriage were of course full of passion and excitement but things have cooled off, perhaps in part due to kids, Laura’s waning self-confidence, and Dean’s (Marlon Wayans) busy work schedule and frequent travel. In fact, some recent events have Laura wondering whether Dean is perhaps seeing someone else. Luckily Laura’s got another thing going for her: a father with a sense of adventure and a propensity for romantic advice he has no real qualification to dispense.

Felix (Bill Murray) was a philanderer himself while married to Laura’s mom, so maybe he does have some valuable insight here. But he’s also just so happy to be spending time with his daughter, not to mention helping her out. They zip around the city in a cherry red convertible, playing spy, snacking on caviar, bonding and reminiscing, trying not to have too much fun over the extinction of Laura’s marriage.

Rashida Jones and Bill Murray are the father-daughter duo of our dreams, a pairing that will prove nearly impossible to beat. Jones is a natural sparkler, glowing and effervescent in everything she does, and yet she ably gives up some of her spotlight to the man playing her larger than life, playboy father. Felix is at the stage in his life where he’s indulging in his every whim, and it doesn’t exactly sound like he was ever a man who denied himself much. Murray, it seems, is getting better with age, so effortlessly charming, so completely endearing even while blemished with a hint of selfishness, tinged with a tendency toward flippancy.

Writer-director Sofia Coppola sets the stage with a gorgeous setting and a warm relationship, and then peppers On The Rocks with some profoundly entertaining navel-gazing. Felix is a fount of wisdom, not all of it equal in worth or sincerity, but every third or fourth quip, offered with Felix’s trademark insouciance, will disarm you with its bare naked authenticity. The premise seems to be about catching Dean’s infidelity red-handed, but it’s actually about an older man whose contemporaries are dying and he’s finding himself increasingly alone. After hurting her mother and leaving his family, Felix’s relationship with Laura is as much on the rocks as Dean’s is, and if he needs an excuse to spend quality time with her, he’s not afraid to use the end of her marriage to do it. Coppola’s script expertly stays away from saccharine expressions and simply allows us (and Laura) to see a love and deep affection sheepishly, self-consciously offered but genuinely felt.

The Beguiled

During the civil war, a girls’ boarding school full of southern genteel ladies is eking out an existence. Out of the goodness of their hearts, they take in an injured enemy soldier, John (Colin Farrell) and nurse him back to health. They’ve hardly got enough fabric to rip into bandages yet somehow the lot of them, including house mistress Martha (Nicole Kidman), teacher Edwina (Kirsten Dunst), and haughty student Carol (Elle Fanning), flounce around in beautiful, gauzy dresses. Suspicious.

I hated this movie in a pretty major way. Every female in the movie is a bitch, even the film_rec-02cute little ones. And every female throws herself at the soldier in their midst, despite the fact that he’s their sworn enemy and currently AWOL. And of course Johnny boy plays each and every one of them, and they faint into his greedy clutches like they don’t have a brain between them to see through his rather obvious machinations.

The entire plot of this movie relies on the crazed horniness of every single woman and girl. And when lusty John finally makes one his lucky mistress, oh man, we’re all going to wish they had stuck to just heavy petting and weird old-timey flirting.

Of course, this being a Sofia Coppola flick, it looks great. Very atmospheric. I sort of want to take a feminist read of it, and wonder where we’d be if it wasn’t for men fucking things up all the time. That’s worthy of a pause, but hard to dwell there since the movie is so entrenched in its sexual tension. The women give some fantastic performances, but the characters are so exploitative it’s hard to really appreciate any nuance.

The Beguiled is a slow-burning thriller seething with toxic masculinity. The pace is uneven, defaulting to meandering. Long, artful silences can’t mask the mixed message: Colin Farrell might be the sex object, but every female is just a flower waiting, hoping, to be plucked by him. It looks dreamy but feels grim. Coppola might be doing interesting things here but I’ll never know it because I was too enraged and insulted to care.

Female-Directed Films to Look Forward to in 2017

Put your money where your mouth is: seek out films with women in the director’s seat, and see them in theatres. Women In Film Los Angeles has asked people to take a pledge to see 52 films directed by women in 2017. We’ll be writing about some excellent choices in the back catalogue, but here are some that will be screening in your local cineplex.

Wonder Woman: You’ll have to wait until June for this one, but it’s the first superhero blockbuster to have a female director, and it’s also the first time a woman has been given a budget of over $100 million. Director Patty Jenkins is best known for directing Charlize Theron to her Oscar in Monster. This movie already has a terrific trailer and star Gal Gadot looks pretty badass as the warrior princess, so it’s in pretty good shape.

A United Kingdom: this one hits theatres next month so you’ll soon be able to get a taste of Amma Asante’s work, if you haven’t already (she directed Belle, which you should absolutely check out). A United Kingdom is the true story of  Prince Seretse Khama of Bechuanaland (now Botswana) and the white lady he chose to marry. You might guess that neither of their families are impressed, but it’s the South African apartheid government that poses the biggest problem. It stars David Oyelowo and Rosamund Pike and it debuted well at TIFF.

Lovesong: Also out in February, Lovesong is a road trip movie about two women, a single mother (Riley Keough) and a free spirit (Jena Malone) who see a new intensity to their relationship throughout their travels. Sundance has big praise for the Korean American director So Yong Kim and her intimate, nuanced portrait of strong female leads.

Raw: This one is for only the strongest stomachs among us. It debuted at TIFF to rumours of people fainting and\or vomiting over the graphic scenes, in which a young vegetarian is hazed at vet school by being forced to eat meat, awakening in her a real taste for flesh. Writer-director Julie Ducournau was praised for handling the coming of age stuff just as well as she presents the intensely disturbing stuff, and Ducournau’s just getting started: this is her first feature film, so watch out for her.

Their Finest: This is a romantic war comedy. Yes, you read that right. It sounds wrong but it actually is pretty fantastic. It stars Gemma Arterton, Sam Claflin, and the wonderful Bill Nighy as the people behind morale-boosting movies during the great war. It’s deliciously funny at times but director Lone Scherfig makes sure it’s more than just that, and everyone rises to the occasion.

The Zookeeper’s Wife: I read this book so I know the film will be intense. It’s the true story of the couple who ran the Warsaw Zoo during the second world war; they used the zoo as cover to hide Jews, and ended up saving hundreds of lives, but not without cost. New Zealand director Niki Caro doesn’t have as house-holdy a name as the star, Jessica Chastain, but other notable movies of hers include McFarland USA, North Country, and Whale Rider. Her name is on its way up.

Rock That Body: I’m not quite sure what to make of this one, but I’m putting it on the list anyway. It’s a female ensemble comedy in the style of The Hangover, only instead of losing a friend, they accidentally kill a male stripper. These things happen! Starring Scarlett Johansson, Kate McKinnon, Jillian Bell, Ilana Glazer, and Zoe Kravitz, and directed by funny lady Lucia Aniello. Fingers crossed that this one works! [Ed. note: this one was renamed Rough Night]

The-Beguiled-Movie-Set-1-1.jpgThe Beguiled: If it sounds familiar, you’re right. It’s a remake of a 1971 film starring Clint Eastwood. This time around it’ll be Colin Farrel in the Eastwood role, a Union soldier being held prisoner in a Confederate girl’s boarding school. All the young ladies fall for him (including Elle Fanning, Kirsten Dunst, and Nicole Kidman), which means it’s not long until things get complicated. Really complicated. The (new) Beguiled will be directed by Sofia Coppola, who’s got some big titles under her belt like Lost in Translation and Marie Antoinette. I hope this one’s a hit!

Lady Bird: This movie is a semi-autobiographical coming of age story about a senior in high school (Saoirse Ronan) who’s getting ready to leave home. It co-stars Manchester By The Sea’s Lucas Hedges, plus Jordan Rodrigues, Laurie Metcalfe, and Tracy Letts’ but oddly enough, this first-time solo director is probably the most famous name of all: it’s Greta Gerwig. Good luck to her, and may it be the first of many.

Unicorn Store: We’re not sure when this one’s even coming out but it’s never too early for mv5bodvinzc2ytetndy0my00odk2lwfkodqtmdvjzwzhndzkzmq3xkeyxkfqcgdeqxvynjixnde0ote-_v1_sy1000_sx1000_al_anticipation! It’s about a woman named Kit who moves back home to live with her parents and then gets an invitation that makes things interesting. Brie Larson will star AND direct, despite the fact that she’s got an absolutely packed 2017, what with Kong: Skull Island, Free Fire, Basmati Blues, and The Glass Castle all being released, but this quirky future Captain Marvel always has time to surprise us.



A Very Murray Christmas

AVeryMurrayChristmas_posterLet’s get one thing straight: this isn’t Scrooged, the redux. It’s a plotless variety show without a lot of variety, but it’s got Bill Goddamned Fucking Murray, so what else do you want?

It’s Christmas Eve and Murray is contractually obligated to put on a Christmas special live from the Carlyle Hotel in Manhattan. He’s in no position to be doing such a thing and the show is doomed to hell, but so what? His piano accompanist is Paul Shaffer, for crying out loud. How bad could it be?

Well, as Amy Poehler and Julie White come bustling into his room to assuage his pre-show jitters\brow-beat him into meeting his obligations, it would seem that they are worried too. There’s a blizzard blanketing NYC, and none of the celebrity guests have shown up. No guests at all, actually, except for Michael Cera, playing a slimy talent agent desperate to sign Murray (who is famous in real life from being unrepresented).

Murray starts off singing dejectedly but can’t even finish his first song. NEN1NCNECeZIRU_1_bThe special’s a disaster! But wait! Who’s that sight for sore eyes revolving through the door? Why it’s none other than Chris Rock, here mistakenly, but here nonetheless, and despite his vehement refusals, he gets emotionally manipulating into joining the live broadcast. Singing ‘Do You Hear What I Hear?’ as a duet, Murray and Rock are one of the highlights of the show. In a special that’s not even an hour long, Chris Rock proves he may not be a singer but he is indeed an actor; the reluctance to join in spackled across his slowly turns into Christmas cheer as the joy of the song spreads to his heart…until the power goes out, and he takes the opportunity to make his escape.

“Force Majeure!” cry his cheeky producers. The contract taken care of by an act of god, White and Poehler hoof it out of there too, leaving Murray to mope around a nearly-deserted hotel where he comes across a sobbing bride (Rashida Jones) and her wobbly wedding cake. Dream wedding ruined, no guests in sight, no preacher to marry them, and a 90bunch of lobsters going bad, she and her groom (Jason Schwartzman) have fought.

Never fear: when not hosting Christmas specials, Bill Murray also proffers marital counselling, and so in he goes to save the day, and spark up some more “impromptu” holiday tunes. Jenny Lewis playing a waitress is on hand to do the lady part of ‘Baby It’s Cold Outside’, everyone’s favourite date-rape carol, and the band Phoenix is conveniently on hand pretending to be kitchen staff to back up several more ditties, so that Jason Schwartzman can prove there is a worse singer in this thing than Chris Rock.

And then Maya Rudolph shows up playing a washed up lounge singer, and holy hell, she just puts them all to shame. She belts out a ‘Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)’ so good that even Darlene Love would approve (she sang that song on Letterman every Christmas since 1986 except for the writer’s strike in 2007 – this will be her first year without, since Dave is retired). It’s not surprising that Rudolph is amazing: she is, after all, daughter to soul singer Minnie Riperton and composer-songwriter Richard Rudolph. Oh, and granddaughter of Teena Marie. She’s got chops, plus extra credentials for often impersonating Beyonce on SNL, and for playing in a Prince cover band called Princess. And I’ve got a huge crush on her.

Then the action mysteriously leaves the Carlyle Hotel for a decked-out maxresdefaultsoundstage in New Jersey, where two new guest stars join the festivities: Miley Cyrus, cheating on her own cameo in The Night Before, and George Clooney to mix the martinis. An unlikely pair? If you say so!

I wish I could find something to be grumpy about with Miley’s performance, but the truth is, she sounds good. Perched atop Shaffer’s bill-murray-miley-cyrus-george-clooney-netflix-christmas-specialpiano, Silent Night is rendered faithfully, although there’s probably a little too much leg for the holy parts. The real surprise, and delight, is when Clooney pipes up during ‘Santa Claus Wants Some Lovin.’ Is the world ready for this side of George Clooney? Unfortunately he flashes a lot less leg, but he does look awfully dapper in his suit.

Anyway, director Sofia Coppola did quite a job of rounding up a slew of stars and dipping them in Christmas coating. You can play a real game of celebrity bingo, as you’ll see in the comments. There’s no plot, no story, no moral: just a lot of the ever-charming Bill Murray. It’s available on Netflix and it’s the kind of thing you can easily just put on in the background while you do some holiday baking or cleaning or wrapping, or better yet – some imbibing.





Marie Antoinette

Sean and I are still in France and in fact should be touring around the beautiful grounds and palace at Versailles right now, so what movie is more fitting that Marie Antoinette?


She was a bright and beautiful girl, married at the age of 14 to a political ally she’d never seen tumblr_lbhpd2jWia1qecnumo1_500before. She is traded from one kingdom to another. She is surrounded by servants and comforts of every kind; she has jewelry and clothes and feasts like no other. She also has no grip on reality. And this movie doesn’t criticize her for it. Sofia Coppola may have strayed from historical accuracy in the writing and directing of this film, but she does give us a more human character to relate to. Marie-Antoinette is above all just a teenage girl, used to a lavish lifestyle, uncomprehending of any other.

shoesThe production had special permission from the government of France to film on location at Versailles. Even more impressive (to my mind), Coppola even induced famed designer Manolo Blahnik to create hundreds of shoes for this film. Fittingly, there is a shoe montage, which will make you squeal with delight, and if you watch carefully, you might catch a 1.5 second shot of a pair of Chuck Taylor Converse, not exactly time-period correct, but a staple of any teenage girl’s closet.

Did you know Jason Schwartzman is Sofia Coppola’s cousin? I didn’t. I get my Hollywood royalty  kirstendmixed up just as assuredly as I get my regular royalty confused I guess. At any rate, he plays the king to Kirsten Dunst’s queen, and I have to admire the casting. Who but him could play such a socially inept little weirdo, and who is more inherently hated than Dunst?

I saw this originally back in 2006 when it came out (I’m kind of surprised it’s not older than that) but in the 8 or 9 years since, I’ve become more familiar with some of the other names of the cast: Rose Byrne (broke out in Bridesmaids), Tom Hardy (aka, Bane, and almost Mad Max), and Jamie Dornan (soon to be the pervy guy in Fifty Shades of Grey). Coppola otherwise cast a lot of progeny of movie stars, most of whom I don’t know (although I did see a Nighy and wondered, and was correct in wondering). Plus she threw a bone to her boyfriend, Thomas Mars, from the band Phoenix – he and a bandmate play guitars in one scene, although they can’t have been happy about the tights.


The Virgin Suicides

Mid-1970s Detroit: 5 beautiful, blonde sisters are all but cloistered in their home, kept safe and sheltered by their strict, religious parents. A group of neighbourhood boys become obsessed with these rarely-seen girls, and their intensity and curiosity is only heightened when the youngest sister, just 13, commits suicide.

One of those boys, now grown up and middle aged, recounts the story for us – is he a reliable narrator? He can only piece together the story with the rare glimpses they got from the outside. Even among his friends, he admits, they still argue about what exactly happened. But it says something that they still talk about it in such detail all these years later. It’s a morbid fascination that comes to include us.

Writer-director Sofia Coppola (based on Jeffrey Eugenides’ novel) loves to hide what her leading ladies are thinking, but they never remain as mysterious as in The Virgin Suicides, where the sisters are unknowable not by choice, but by the restrictive actions of their parents. In fact, they are desperate to communicate with the world, and in the 1970s, given all the barriers around them, this was in games of telephone, hand-written notes, even a lamp flicked on and off – morse code, perhaps.

The movie is ostensibly about the sisters (the next-youngest, Lux, played by Kirsten Dunst, especially), but the story really belongs to and is told by the people – the boys and the men – on the outside, trying and failing to make sense of it all. This sense of the outside looking in is often visually represented through Coppola’s shots of the house outside. We peek in through the windows, through cracks of the front door. When a little girl is taken away by ambulance, all the neighbours gather on their front lawns to watch. The cinematic voyeurism only magnifies what the characters do on screen. Short scenes in living rooms and beauty salons assure us that gossip is as rampant among adults as the teenagers who can’t stop watching, even through a telescope, if that’s what it takes. And when one boy, on the cusp of manhood really (Josh Hartnett), finally achieves the impossible and sleeps with the unattainable Lux, she wakes up the next morning to find him gone. He’s left her because once he’s pierced the soapy bubble of her elusiveness and mystique, he finds that she is, in fact, an ordinary girl, and is no longer interested. The sisters’ mythos has largely been constructed by others and is ironically fueled by the strictness of their parents.

This is a tragic story, one that manages not to have heroes or villains, simply victims and witnesses. The boys, in their youth and inexperience, are never held accountable, nor even judged. And the girls remain aloof, forever lost, reduced to a mere absence, a wistful grief.


Johnny Marco (Stephen Dorff) is a Hollywood actor ensconced at the Chateau Marmont Hotel. He’s between movies so his days are filled with booze and women and fast cars and while that sounds kinda hot, it’s really a metaphor for how empty his life is, but that’s okay, because for now it’s just enough to stave off the kind of boredom that makes us turn inward and draw some uncomfortable conclusions about ourselves. So far, Johnny has remained introspection-free and what passes for happy. Good enough.

And then his 11 year old daughter shows up. Cleo (Elle Fanning) inexplicably grows fond of him, and her persistent sweetness eventually jostles him out of his ennui. To his MV5BMTkxNDAxNjY4Ml5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwMTQxMzQ3Mw@@._V1_surprise, alien, paternal feelings start to surface. Not only does he care for his daughter, he wants to be better for her. It’s a bit of a wake-up call. But then she goes off to summer camp and finding himself alone again, Johnny isn’t sure who he has become, or if he can sustain any of the positive changes. But we have reason to hope.

It’s a little hard to sympathize with Johnny’s privileged moping, so for me, the movie really gets juicy with Cleo’s arrival, which grounds him and helps him to redefine both happiness and success. Director Sofia Coppola tackled themes of success and isolation in other movies too, but this time she’s doing it from the male perspective, where depression looks a lot like hedonism, minus the enjoyment.

Cleo is a clever child and an interesting character. In some ways, it is she who parents and nurtures him, and we get the sense that she probably understands more about what’s gone wrong with his life than he does. But she’s still young and can’t help but look up to him, troubling as that may be. Fanning and Dorff have some pretty charming chemistry together. It’s very telling how the film only feels alive when she’s on screen with him. When she’s gone, it’s not just her father who misses her. She leaves a void.

Coppola is particularly qualified to provide this less-than-savoury look at celebrity. Johnny is working, but he’s not doing his craft, he’s doing the annoying, soul-crushing stuff like press and publicity. Anyone else might appreciate the free vacation to Italy, but for him, Venice is just another obligation. Sure this might be a bit of a retread for Coppola, but there’s a sweet melancholy to this film, at times almost hypnotic, plus her classic eye for detail and style – irresistible, really.

The Bling Ring

In this week’s edition of stupid criminals: teenagers who take selfies of themselves committing crimes, at the scene of the crime, during the crime itself. The balls though. The fucking balls.

You may know that Sofia Coppola’s The Bling Ring is based on a real-life band of teenaged criminals who robbed celebrities blind. Although, considering the type of criminal, let’s qualify the type of celebrity: mostly reality stars like Paris Hilton and Audrina Patridge. And while most of us have trouble feeling sympathy for the Haves having a little less, the kids aren’t exactly Have Nots. Of course, you can always Have More. The crazy thing is, they’re just stealing because they can, because it’s there and they’re entitled, and they don’t give a fuck. They want for nothing…except maybe a good lawyer.

Most criminals are eventually caught. All stupid, blatant, idiotic criminals are caught. But even a brush with the law, strike that, several brushes with the law, doesn’t humbleMV5BZGQ5MzIxMTgtNmM3Yi00YmQxLWI1OWMtMWNmM2YwOGQ0Y2QzXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNjQ4ODE4MzQ@._V1_ them. The more, More, MORE monster must be fed and soon our band of merry robbers are graduating to the likes of Megan Fox, Rachel Bilson, and Orlando Bloom. The gossip magazine lets them know when someone’s away, and Google offers up their address. The drugs and their hubris make them sloppy. Their egos make them indiscreet. It’s not so much that they wanted to be caught, but that they genuinely thought they were invulnerable. And for a time they were.

This film is beautifully shot. A stand-out for me is a particular robbery of a glass-walled house in the hills. The camera is set far back, and we’re observing the house from some distance. We witness the intruders moving from room to room, turning on lights one at a time. It’s a beautiful, well-plotted scene. And like all Coppola films, this one maybe more than most, the sound track boasts a lot of great songs.

However, not unlike its protagonists, The Bling Ring ends up being kind of superficial. I get that production probably spent a pretty penny recreating Paris Hilton’s boudoir. But scene after scene of theft that looks like Christmas morning should not come at the expense of motivation. Who the fuck are these kids? Who gave them such a sense of entitlement? These perpetrators are so self-absorbed that they gave interviews on how hard it was to do prison time with one of their victims – Lindsay Lohan. How hard it was to stay strong in the face of her tears. It’s hard, as a viewer, not to feel the bile rise. And while I don’t want to glorify these terrifyingly stupid, self-centered criminals, I’m not sure what good this movie is if it doesn’t offer up insight.

Lost In Translation

Two Americans in Tokyo. Charlotte (Scarlett Johansson) is there for work – her husband’s work. Neglected, she spends er time gazing down upon the city from the cloisters of her hotel room. Elsewhere in said hotel, Bob (Bill Murray) is suffering the indignity of doing foreign commercials ow that his movie work has dried up. It’s a nice pay day but a blow to his ego. His wife nags him long-distance, via middle of the night faxes.

When Charlotte and Bob meet, they are immediate kindred spirits. Lonely and 0-JQ8-nKevwyF6_c5L.pngAmerican, they form a bond that mimics intimacy. In their glowy little bubble, they experience the quirks and sights of Japan; its foreign-ness feels less daunting and more adventurous when they’re together. When they’re apart, it emphasizes their aloneness. But they always revert to the comfort and familiarity of their luxurious but non-descript hotel. In he hotel, they could be anywhere. They develop such a strong sense of we vs. them that even other Americans seem wrong to them, are laughable. Of course, their friendship is a little dangerous: it won’t be good for either of their marriages.

Bill Murray is good – Oscar-nominated good. His improvisations are so good you can literally see extras cracking up in some scenes. Scarlett Johansson was only 17 when this was filmed, so she’s more of a blank slate, having not yet picked up a lot of the acting crutches and mannerisms upon which she’s come to rely. Actually, in 2018, Lost in Translation is 15 years old, which is almost as old as she was when she made it. That’s something to think about, isn’t it?

Writer-director Sofia Coppola probably made her biggest splash with this film. It pulses with life because she threw so much of herself, her own insecurities and worries, into it. Both of these characters travel to an alien land to truly realize how isolated they’ve become. They are disconnected from their spouses, and communication back home is sporadic and brief. There’s a longing for connection that’s an evident, live thread woven into the tapestry of this film. So many small details add up as proof of their passionate friendship, which is far more effective in this context than a sexual relationship would have been.

The film’s sparsity of dialogue speaks volumes to language not being the greatest barrier between people. Communication happens on all levels, and Coppola signals this in her final scene, with that elusive yet beautiful ending in which Murray whispers something unintelligible to Johansson, and they share a tender kiss. What did he say to her?  We may never know the words, but ew unddertand the meaning.