A24 via Everett Collection
You can officially count Sofia Coppola among the ranks of directors looking to revamp fairy tales. She's attached to helm a live-action adaptation of The Little Mermaid. The film will be based on a script that was, at different points, worked on by both Shame's Abi Morgan and Fifty Shades of Grey's Kelly Marcel, which means that audiences can expect a more adult take on Hans Christian Anderson's classic tale. Although Coppola isn't doing final re-writes on the script — that task will fall to Caroline Thompson, who is best known for writing Edward Scissorhands — the project is practically tailor made for her. Seriously.
A story about a young woman who has everything she could possibly ask for but still isn't happy with her life is exactly the kind of tale that Coppola has built her career on. Add in the fact that her pastel-filtered shooting style makes everything look ethereal and dreamy, and the only real surprise here is why it took Coppola so long to rework a fairy tale in the first place. In fact, we think Coppola is so perfect for this film, that we've compiled a list of her directorial trademarks, and how we're expecting them to show up in The Little Mermaid.
We open on a long, dialogue-free establishing sequence, where we meet our protagonist, the titular Little Mermaid...
A Blonde... Coppola loves blondes. Seriously, almost all of the protagonists of her films are blonde, and three fifths of them are Kirsten Dunst. We're going to assume that since this adaptation will be based on the original fairy tale, Coppola will decide to break away from the Disney mold and make her heroine a blonde; since Dunst has stopped playing teenagers, we have a feeling the director will tap her Somewhere star Elle Fanning for the role. She already looks like a fairy tale princess, and Dunst can make another cameo appearance as one of Fanning's older sisters.
Who Is Overcome with Ennui...The only thing that Coppola loves more than a rich blonde is a rich blonde who is overwhelmed by feelings of unhappiness and is unsatisfied by her life. She will spend much of her time staring longingly out of windows — either the windows in her underwater mansion or the portholes of the abandoned ships she hangs out in at night — and waits for something to help her figure out what's missing from her life. Both the characters onscreen and audience watching the film will be unable to understand why she's so unhappy. After all, she's got everything she could possibly want!
Even Though She Is Rich. Like all of the poor little rich girls who came before her, the Little Mermaid will attempt to fill the void in her life with material goods. Her home is filled with gadgets and gizmos a plenty, whosists and whatsists galore, and at least 20 thingamabobs, but whether she bought those objects with her father's credit cards or she stole them from somebody else, she'll still want more. Because it's not truly a Sofia Coppola movie without a message about the emptiness of materialism.
She Spends Her Time Staring at Sun-Dappled Trees...All of Coppola's films feature a transition or establishing shot that highlights the way that sunlight looks when it shines through the leaves of the trees. This time around, we're predicting that shot will come as a way to establish the Little Mermaid's longing for life on land. She and her awkward, dorky guy friend and her ditzy, party animal best friend will sneak out to the surface of the ocean, where they'll look up at the way the sun shines through the leaves and pine for a life on the surface. Alternatively, Coppola could decide to shoot the way sunlight looks shining through the rippling waves, but water just doesn't have that same dreamy-but-lonely effect as trees do.
And People Dancing.Whether you loved or hated the homemade "music video" in the middle of The Bling Ring, it jus wouldn't make sense for one of Coppola's films not to have a scene where people twirl dreamily (or twerk into a webcam). For The Little Mermaid, we're thinking the director should use two separate, shorter ones: one at the beginning, to establish the pretty, pastel-colored world the mermaids inhabit, and one of the mermaid watching people cavort on the legs she so desperately wishes she had. Set them both to mid-tempo, semi-obscure indie rock song and you've got yourself instant exposition.
Somewhere, There's a Veiled Dig at Spike Jonze Okay, so this one only shows up in Lost in Translation, but since Jonze just took home an Oscar for Best Screenplay, we think now is the best time for Coppola to get all of her aggression out onscreen. Maybe the protagonist has an underwater boyfriend who is too focused on his career, and she feels trapped in that relationship. Or maybe the handsome human prince has just won a prestigious award. Maybe he skateboards and hangs around with other humans who perform dangerous stunts and film them for people's entertainment. All we're saying is keep your eyes peeled for any Jonze-ian references buried underneath the surface.
We're going to be the first people in line when this film hits theaters.
Spike Jonze doesn't waste any time introducing us to the technology at the center of Her. "An operating system that can mimic human sentience?" a dangerously lonely Joaquin Phoenix wonders after catching glimpse of an ad in a transit station. "Don't mind if I do!" (He doesn't actually say that, don't worry.) But by the time we're meant to believe that such a world can seamlessly integrate characters like Scarlett Johansson's automated voice Samantha into the lives of living, breathing men and women like Phoenix's Theodore, we're already established residents of this arresting, icy, quivering world the filmmaker has built. We meet Theodore midway through his recitation of a "handwritten letter" he penned on behalf of a woman to her husband of many years. That's his job — tapping into his own unique sensititivies to play ghostwriter for people hoping to adorn their spouses, boyfriends, girlfriends, parents, and children with personal notes of personal affection. Theodore is no independent contractor; he's part of a thriving company, and we almost get the feeling that the folks on the receiving end of these letters are in the know. Before we ever encounter Samantha, we're embedded in the central conceit of the movie: emotional surrogacy is an industry on the rise.
What makes Jonze's world so palatable is that, beneath its marvelously eerie aesthetic, this idea is barely science-fiction. Theodore, humbled and scarred by a recent divorce from lifelong love Catherine (Rooney Mara, who contrasts Johansson by giving a performance that, for a large sum of the movie, is all body and no voice), accesses the will to go on through interractions with video game characters and phone-sex hotlines. But the ante is upped with Samantha, the self-named operating system that Theodore purchases to stave off loneliness, deeming choice a far less contorting one than spending time with old pals like Amy (Amy Adams)... at first.
Samantha evolves rather quickly from an articulate Siri into a curious companion, who is fed and engaged by Theodore just as much as she feeds and engages him. Jonze paces his construction of what, exactly, Samantha is so carefully that we won't even catch the individual steps in her change — along with Theodore, we slowly grow more and more enamored and mystified by his computer/assistant/friend/lover before we can recognize that we're dealing with a different being altogether from the one we met at that inceptive self-aware "H-hello?" But Jonze lays tremendous groundwork to let us know this story is all for something: all the while, as the attractions build and the hearts beat faster for Samantha, we foster an unmistakable sense of doom. We can't help but dread the very same perils that instituted one infamous admission: "I'm sorry, Dave. I'm afraid I can't do that."
But Jonze's sci-fi constructs are so cohesively intertwined with his love story that our dread doesn't exactly translate to an anticipation of HAL's hostile takeover. Her wedges us so tightly between Theodore and Samantha that our fears of the inevitable clash between man and machine apprehend a smaller, more intimate ruin. As Samantha's growth become more surprising and challenging to Theodore, to herself, and to us, the omens build for each.
And although all three parties know better, we cannot help but affix ourselves to the chemistry between Theodore and Samantha, and to the possibility that we're building toward something supreme. A good faction of this is due to the unbelievable performances of Phoenix — representing the cautious excitement that we all know so painfully well — and Johansson, who twists her disembodied voice so empathetically that we find ourselves, like Theodore, forgetting that we have yet to actually meet her. The one castigation that we can attach to the casting of Johansson is that such a recognizable face will, inevitably, work its way into our heads when we're listening to her performance. It almost feels like a cheat, although we can guarantee that a performance this good would render a figure just as vivid even if delivered by an unknown.
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In this way, Her is as effective a comment on the healthiest human relationships as it is on those that rope in third parties — be they of the living, automated, or greeting card variety. In fact, the movie has so many things to say that it occasionally steps on its own feet, opening up ideas so grand (and coloring them so brightly) that it sometimes has trouble capping them coherently. Admittedly, if Spike Jonze had an answer to some of the questions he's asking here, he'd probably be suspected of himself being a super-intelligent computer. But in telling the story of a man struggling to understand what it means to be in love, to an operating system or not, Jonze invites us to dissect all of the manic and trying and wonderful and terrifying and incomprehensible elements therein. Just like Samantha, Her doesn't always know what to do with all of its brilliance. But that might be part of why we're so crazy over the both of them.
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Joseph Merrick suffered from a disfiguring disease and became famous as a sideshow curiosity in Victorian England, where he was nicknamed The Elephant Man.
The Hangover star admits he felt a strange kinship with Merrick, and would often look in the mirror as a kid and imagine his face to be deformed too.
Recalling David Lynch's 1980 movie The Elephant Man, Cooper tells Details magazine, "I became obsessed with this motherf**ker. I was crying. I couldn't move. He was a beautiful guy, f**kin' beautiful. He had tremendous hope. He struggled to be a man - because he was a man."
Cooper says the connection has continued throughout his career - he played Merrick on stage for his graduate thesis at the Actors' Studio Drama School in New York, and he's gone through great lengths to get closer to the legend.
He adds, "I literally went to London and saw the cloak that Merrick wore."
Merrick was 27 when he died in 1890, due to accidental asphyxia, caused by the weight of his head as he lay down.