The Men In Her Life: Our Review of ‘Sofia Coppola: A Name of Her Own’

Posted in Movies, Retrospective, Theatrical by - December 08, 2017
The Men In Her Life: Our Review of ‘Sofia Coppola: A Name of Her Own’

A name of her own – that’s a curious title for TIFF’s retrospective of Sofia Coppola’s work. It did take me a while to remember that her father’s influence. There are characters that obviously most resembles her titan of a father, Francis Ford. One is Bob Harris (Bill Murray) in Lost in Translation.

There’s also Johnny Marco (Stephen Dorff) in Somewhere. Both characters are actors in spaces where they don’t belong. They end up navigating short periods of their lives with a younger girl or woman (Elle Fanning). The relationships these characters have are probably the most civil in her oeuvre. The rest of the relationships between run the gamut between silent oppression to acrimonious.

Men dominate the society during the Ancien Regime. They expect the titular 14-year-old Marie Antoinette (Kirsten Dunst) to pop out an heir. Coppola also looks at Suburban America in The Virgin Suicides. That society expects the Lisbon sisters (Kirsten Dunst, etc.) to be both chaste and to be sexual objects.

Corporal John McBurney (Colin Farrell) in The Beguiled is just a straight up monster. He leeches on the goodwill of Southern women (Nicole Kidman, Anjourie Rice, Oona Laurence). I’m curious to see what else she comes up with in the future, whether she’ll ramp up her characters’ confrontations.

And what it says about a woman escaping from the shadows. Speaking of conflict, feminist is a troubling word to describe her work. Since most of her protagonists are white women in glass prisons. Others have criticized her for whitewashing her work.

It’s problematic to see how the Japanese in Lost in Translation are stereotypes. She wrote out a character in The Bling Ring who happened to be a dreamer. And she cast white actors as Edwina Morrow (Kirsten Dunst) and Alicia (Elle Fanning), both of whom had black ancestry.

It’s also surprising to realize how much conflict there is in most of her films. That’s because she famous for, to borrow a friend’s words, a lazy Sunday afternoon aesthetic. Her characters bide their time, a young person’s strategy of hiding off on what they need to do.

Characters like Lost in Translation‘s Charlotte (Scarlett Johannson) do her own exploring. Coppola’s camera pays attention to the details of the world we’ve created for ourselves in all its toxic beauty. Civilization and nature and equally fatal and life-giving, a fruitful message that comes from a rock star female director.

Sofia Coppola: A Name of Her Own is playing at the TIFF Bell Lightbox until Dec. 17th, get your tickets now.

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While Paolo Kagaoan is not taking long walks in shrubbed areas, he occasionally watch movies and write about them. His credentials are as follows: he has a double major in English and Art History. This means that, for example, he will gush at the art direction in the Amityville house and will want to live there, which is a terrible idea because that house has ghosts. Follow him @paolokagaoan on Instagram but not while you're working.