A statement that this film looks like not made by the same director as The Virgin Suicides, Lost in Translation or Marie Antoinette needs to be made early enough, so as not to let the fans be deceived --especially those awaiting for the classic Hollywood scenario with a beginning, a peak and a (preferably happy) ending. And some serious characterisation in between.
Well, no, this is not another Hollywood film, this is what we called Art Cinema in uni times, a film which belongs more in the long tradition of European film-makers like Antonioni. A dull, usually lavish setting, some characters lost in their personal inexplicable ennui and lack of real action. Characters go around performing an everyday routine, for which they have no great interest or enthusiasm; there is not much interaction between them either; if the audience is not informed or in the right ,first or second-gear mood, it may end up equally bored to the protagonists.
All this is not bad criticism, mind me, just pure facts. The film is thoroughly perforated with irony and a critical take on the enviable Hollywood jet-set and yet another visualisation of the saying "money does not bring happiness". Fame neither, for that matter. It's an insider's point of view of the star-system and film industry alike, valuable and daring. Sofia Coppola is a famous dad's girl herself --a fact that may or may not be related to the story, but quite explicative of her interest in the subject matter.
Johnny Marco is a film star and a father of a lovely kid, portrayed by Elle Fanning (that we prefer so much more to her sister, Dakota). Unfortunately, he acts out both his roles the worse possible way: somehow neglecting his daughter and finding little to say to her, while he makes his co-stars hate him or run after him, after one-off affairs. It's not his plan, though; he does not mean to hurt anyone, he's just unable to do any better. For the longest part of the film, he looks unable to feel anything at all, ranging from love, friendship, interest, excitement. He tries to kill time drinking beers, having random sex and driving in his black Ferrari. At some point, things change a bit, to the better or worse we will never learn, but a change is always more than welcome, at least it can be seen as an evolution of the former stagnant situation.
Elle is giving a great performance and reminds us that Sofia falls for the same kind of girls for her movies: fair, thin, fairy-like. Stephen Dorff gives a boring performance, but he incarnates someone utterly boring, so maybe he does it right, after all. Direction tries to wear out its audience on purpose: loooooong, uninteresting, silent takes and God be with us. Yes, we see the point and we get Sofia, indeed. Still, all this deep critique could be considerate to an audience who asks a bit more than an interesting soundtrack --featuring Presley's Teddy Bear and Smoke Gets in Your Eyes.