Who's In It: Stephen Dorff, Elle Fanning, Chris Pontius
The Basics: Stephen Dorff is B-list movie star Johnny Marco. And he's a cliche. Young, unkempt, good looking and divorced with an 11-year-old daughter (Elle Fanning), he lives at the Chateau Marmont, drives a Ferrari in circles, has sex with an endless parade of pretty young women, passes out regularly from too much booze and pills and is overly concerned with paparazzi. He only exists outside of bored, solipsistic hedonism on kid-visitation day. Yes, the daughter notices.
What's The Deal: It would be easy to assign memoir status to this movie. Obviously writer-director Sofia Coppola knows what it's like to be the child of a famous person and to spend time living in fancy hotels. But since she was the child of a highly motivated and productive famous person rather than one who crashed and burned, it can be assumed that only some of the feelings displayed by Elle Fanning here come from the filmmaker's firsthand experience. What the movie really does is return to Coppola's favorite topic: the interior lives of young girls who already find themselves living in one kind of cocoon or other. She examines boredom, privilege, torpor, laziness and adolescent daydreams with a kind of molasses slowness that no one else can touch. That's good because no other American filmmaker is really trying to touch it anyway. And somebody has to.
Coolest Shots: The first time the camera hits Jackass's Chris Pontius and you're left wondering for a moment if he's supposed to be playing himself or not. (He's not.) Then later Dorff runs into Benicio Del Toro, who is playing himself, in the Chateau Marmont elevator and they engage in weirdly awkward "oh hey, we're both celebrities" small talk. There's a foreign press conference that feels like something from La Dolce Vita with all the joy drained out of it, and the nonstop driving scenes echo the relentless freeway hypnotism of the early '70s L.A. movie about movie people, Play It As It Lays.
Lost In Translation, Jr: If Elle Fanning seems like a younger version of Scarlett Johansson, shuttered in a well-appointed hotel suite, making eggs Benedict and playing Rock Band because there's nothing else to do, then that's appropriate. Because the similarities are there to be drawn. Only this time around, she has even less power over her own destiny and more reason to be upset.
Who Shouldn't See It: Anybody who likes plots that move from Point A to Point B and that do so with conventional narrative momentum. Because this is a movie where a lot of Not Much takes place. And that's the point, but to get there Coppola forces you to look at that Not Much for quite a while. She takes the last static shot of the ruined palace from her last film, Marie Antoinette, and makes an entire movie that way. If you're not already a fan of art film directors like Bela Tarr or Hou Hsiao Hsien--people who never met a multi-minute shot they didn't like--you probably never think about how short most shots in most films are. You will after watching Dorff in a makeup chair being slathered with white latex goop to make an old age mask, because it seems to be happening in real time.