At first glance, it’s a challenge to muster much sympathy for Johnny Marco (Dorff); he’s a handsome, successful actor holed up at Hollywood’s Chateau Marmont, where twin pole dancers stop by his suite to perform for an audience of one. When he’s not drinking or fucking, he’s cruising around in his black Ferrari. But you can tell from his dead eyes and the nightstand covered in liquor and pill bottles that Johnny is in trouble. His routine gets a little variety but no real change when his 11-year-old daughter Cleo (Fanning) is dumped on him by his ex, whose note explains she needs some time away.
Johnny and Cleo play table tennis, hang out at the pool, play Guitar Hero and fly to Italy for the premiere of Johnny’s latest film. Johnny does a photo shoot and a press conference. Cleo fixes a fancy breakfast, taking over the parental role for her father. Like Coppola’s Lost in Translation, this is a portrait of people adrift in a hotel and life, but with father/daughter dynamics replacing the romantic angle. Coppola captures it all with a detached eye (the frequent comparisons to Antonioni make sense; both look at the wealthy with an existentialist reserve). It takes a while to embrace the slow rhythm, long takes and minimal dialogue, but there’s a lot to enjoy in the nuances: The subtle shifts in emotion, the little gestures, the faint hint of hope. Johnny lives in a bubble of privilege, but it’s an interesting bubble to gaze into.