4. Somewhere (2010)
Like Lost in Translation, Sofia Coppola’s 2010 feature Somewhere deals with the feelings of isolation and emptiness that come with money and fame. Set in and around the famous Chateau Marmont, Somewhere stars Stephen Dorff as Johnny Marco, a movie star suffering an existential crisis, who is suddenly forced to take care of his eleven-year-old daughter, Cleo (Elle Fanning), full-time when his ex-wife unexplainably disappears.
The opening of the movie is a perfect example of something Coppola does super well. A car drives in a loop, maybe three or four times before it finally comes to a stop and Johnny emerges from the driver’s seat. It’s life: uninterrupted, in all its mundanity and aimlessness. Coppola doesn’t cut where you think she will, where it feels most comfortable. She forces you to sit with the image, to feel the constant cycle Johnny finds himself in.
Shot by Harris Savides, Somewhere shares a lot of aesthetic similarities to The Bling Ring. While that movie is flashy and cool, this one is minimalistic, perhaps as a response to the criticisms of Marie Antoinette.
This is a story Coppola understands well and, while she had explored it before, it doesn’t feel stale. It feels personal and intimate and it’s clear that she was able to draw on her own experiences as the daughter of a mega-famous celebrity. The movie certainly wouldn’t work as well as it does without Stephen Dorff and Elle Fanning whose performances are both naturalistic and nuanced.
3. The Beguiled (2017)
Partnering once again with Kirsten Dunst, The Beguiled, a reinterpretation of the 1971 movie of the same name, is a Southern Gothic thriller that takes place near the end of the American Civil War. When a wounded Union soldier (Colin Farrell) takes refuge inside an all girls school run by Martha Farnsworth (Nicole Kidman), he begins to manipulate the situation to his advantage. As each of the girls become infatuated with him, tensions eventually boil over, leading to a deadly conclusion.
The Beguiled was Coppola’s first remake and she was drawn to the material in much the same way she was drawn to The Virgin Suicides. She saw it as a way to tell the story from a different perspective, to flesh out the female characters and make them more than caricatures. For the most part, she succeeds. Though the women are thrown into disarray when Corporal McBurney arrives, Coppola treats them all with respect and dignity. Because of this, it is more of a pointed critique of Southern manners and the oppression of women, rather than a thriller about sex-crazed women brought to their breaking point.
Phillip Le Sourd’s cinematography gives the movie a darker and more sinister feel than any of Coppola’s previous works. It’s a welcomed departure for her, and she feels at home among the shadows. It’s also a great juxtaposition for the costuming and production design, which remains closer to Coppola’s usual aesthetic.
It is worth noting that Coppola did cut the role of a black, female slave that was in the 1971 version and fails to acknowledge that Edwina (Kristen Dunst) is biracial in the novel. While this works to further isolate the women (who are all white, upper-class Southerners), it does feel like Coppola simply dismisses elements that she doesn’t particularly relate to. As with Lost in Translation, it’s just another drawback of who she is and the privilege that has afforded her.
All in all, The Beguiled is a haunting depiction of repressed female sexual desire. It is brilliantly paced and the ending feels like both a gut punch and a sigh of relief.
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