Sunday, 15 July 2012


A newly famous actor Johnny Marco (Stephen Dorff) spends his days drinking, taking pills and having casual sex with a string of beautiful women while residing at the Chateau Marmont in Los Angeles. Occasionally he will be called to give an interview or sent to a photo shoot with a co-star but usually he has his days to himself, sometimes hanging out with his school friend Sammy (Chris Pontius). One day he receives an unexpected visit from his eleven year old daughter Cleo (Elle Fanning) whose stay challenges his lifestyle.
The film can be seen in a semi autobiographic sense as director Sofia Coppola spent much of her childhood following her father Frances Ford around the world for film making and press. Cleo can be seen as a version of herself while Johnny is the archetypal star for whom life has become easy and boring. The main problem with the film is that we, the audience, are meant to feel sorry for Johnny but I did not.

In an early scene Johnny is watching a pole dance from freaky sex twins Kristina and Karissa Shannon when he falls asleep. This sets up his character as someone who is bored with life and used to the trappings of Hollywood success. The scene is quite funny but also weird as I had no idea of the existence of these weird twins who my girlfriend informs me are BOTH Hugh Hefner’s girlfriends *shudders*. As the film continues and it becomes obvious that Johnny is sick of partying and bored of the sex with all the beautiful women I started thinking to myself “Hang on. You’re sat in a hotel room having just f*cked a supermodel and now you’re driving your Ferrari around. I do not feel for you”.

In terms of looking at the life of a star the film is a success. I imagine it does become mundane at times and I expect you have to do things that you’re not particularly keen on but from my perspective the benefits outweigh the negatives. This is especially true for Johnny Marco. The introduction of Cleo helped to draw me back in. The father/daughter relationship interested me and especially it’s dynamic where it seemed at times that eleven year old Cleo was the adult. She cooks and acts calm under pressure while Johnny sleeps, plays guitar hero and gets paranoid at being followed every time he leaves the house.

My favourite scene was the one in which Johnny and Cleo are in Italy attending an awards ceremony. Johnny hooks up with a voluptuous Italian star and the next morning at breakfast Cleo tells Johnny what she thinks using only her eyes. It’s a great performance from Elle Fanning and you know exactly what she is saying despite her never opening her mouth. Fanning is excellent throughout as she has a habit of being. She herself has the makings of a star. Stephen Dorff plays the jaded actor well and is believable. Although not my area of expertise I wouldn’t say he is the best looking chap so the fact that so many women throw themselves at him adds to the theme of success gets you anything. Jackass' Chris Pontius is also surprisingly adequate.

Overall the film is interesting at times and well acted. The direction and cinematography are measured, assured and attractive but the underlying problem remains that I did not feel sorry for the central character.        



  1. I might re-watch it some day, but I was ultimately bored when I saw it in the cinema. I know it's Sofia's style, but still... Besides, I felt guilty since I said to my firend that it's going to be a great movie and she didn't like it either.

    However, just the way Coppola portrays Hollywood life and the father-child relationship in that environment is fascinating. That's why I don't mind re-visiting it. Elle Fanning is indeed great here. As for Stephen Dorff, I believe he's a perfect pick and although like you said he's not that good-looking, I think Coppola cast him for a good reason. I mean what we see are photoshoped celebrities with lots of make-up on their faces that make them look really good. But are they that pretty/handsome in real life? :) Besides, Dorff's unpretentious look is another way to state that a celebrity's life is not that exciting.

    1. Yeah, I expect your friend was pissed off! It's far from great. I agree that Dorff was well cast. Had it been Brad Pitt or Ryan Gosling etc then you'd just think well of course the ladies want him.

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