AccessMyLibrary provides FREE access to millions of articles from top publications available through your library.
Byline: Evgenia Peretz
If, as they say, Hollywood is a high school, then a new group of cool kids are coloring in their sneakers in the wardrobe closet behind the theater, and their queen bee is Sofia Coppola. There are the directors: her friend Wes Anderson (Rushmore, The Royal Tenenbaums, The Life Aquatic), P. T. Anderson (Magnolia, Punch-Drunk Love), her ex-husband, Spike Jonze (Being John Malkovich, Adaptation), her best friend, Zoe Cassavetes (daughter of filmmaker John, now working on her debut feature), and her big brother Roman (director of CQ, he shoots on Sofia's second unit). And the actors: her cousin Jason Schwartzman (star of Rushmore, I [currency] Huckabees, and Sofia's latest film, Marie Antoinette), who is writing a screenplay with Roman and Wes for Wes's next movie, and Bill Murray (star of Rushmore, The Life Aquatic, and Sofia's Lost in Translation), their cool social-studies teacher, who takes them on unconventional field trips and signs their recommendation letters to the major studios.
They have a lovely thing going on. Unlike the cool kids of 20 years ago-Rob Lowe, Charlie Sheen, Bret Easton Ellis, et al.-who were regularly obnoxious, hard-living, and in some cases hung out with hookers, the new cool kids live in a peaceful kingdom where imagination, youthful naivete, and impeccable taste reign supreme. They're not a Brat Pack; they're a Play Group. Their art is not about sex, money, or violence. It's about mood and whimsy: frogs fall out of the sky; a Brazilian guitarist in a sailor suit appears sporadically, singing David Bowie songs in Portuguese; unicorns materialize. Their personal lives have a similar gentleness. They're about warm and eccentric families, working with friends, sojourns in Paris, the best new bands, 70s songs that no one has ever heard, the perfect shoe.
Sofia, at age 35, has it all-plus a Marc Jacobs handbag named after her, a child (her first) on the way, with Thomas Mars, the front man of the atmospheric French rock band Phoenix, and an airy, unruffled way that manages to disarm those who come in contact with her. It's all completely effortless, of course. Jacobs, who has used Coppola as a muse for years, cringes at the notion that she would be conscious of the iconic stature she has reached. "What people say is 'cool'-it's like outsiders looking at something and thinking, Wow, they have all these hip friends and they do all these fabulous things and they dress a certain way," he says. "But Sofia's ... she's just very natural." Spoken like a true member of the in-crowd. Coppola puts it another way: "There's so much bad taste out there that if you're just natural ... " She does the characteristic trail-off. "I don't know."
It might be tempting to dismiss Coppola as a ditz who has successfully parlayed her famous name, the right clothes, and the right friends into an overblown image, if it weren't for the enormous, deserved success she has had as a director, whose three films seem to be extensions of herself: ethereal, stylish, child-like, yet powerful. Her first feature film, The Virgin Suicides (1999), a dreamy, sun-bleached re-invention of adolescence in the suburbs, proved that she could masterfully execute a mood (though some male viewers felt as if they were being forced by their girlfriend to flip through a fashion magazine). Lost in Translation (2003), starring Murray and Scarlett Johansson as two alienated travelers who connect in Tokyo through a filter of jet lag, was greeted as a revelation, and put to rest any suspicion that her filmmaker father or husband must have had something to do with her success. Exquisitely shot, quietly funny, it also had the kind of odd, true observations of an old soul. "Every girl goes through a photography phase," Johansson's character, Charlotte, tells Murray's Bob. "Take dumb pictures of your feet." The movie had just the right amount of emotion for the edgy filmgoer of 2003: a recognizable, fuzzy, melancholic feeling that was never taken to the limit-a trademark of the new cool filmmakers.
Lost in Translation grossed more than $44 million domestically, well beyond what anyone expected, and earned the Golden Globe for best picture and best screenplay, …