Megalopolis (2024) CANNES FILM FESTIVAL 2024

May 17th, 2024
Author: Meredith Taylor

Dir: Francis Ford Coppola | US Drama 120′

This ambitious undertaking, forty years in the making, should have been called ‘Magaflopolis’. Ok it’s easy to criticise, but a veteran director such as Ford Coppola has a duty to his audience: not to confuse them, or bore them rigid for over two hours – but that’s exactly what he does in this over-inflated piece of filmmaking that masquerades as an inspired satire.

Megalopolis is pretentious and posturing and ultimately vacuous. Discombobulating images continuously flash before our eyes along with a talented cast of Hollywood’s best. But there wasn’t a scene or a performance I enjoyed as the actors all seem caught up in the grandiosity of it all in displaying the worst traits of each sex. The women were grasping and bitchy. The men arrogant and ego-driven, in fact, Jon Voight was the only one with a shred of vulnerability and a cheeky grin of playfulness as canny banker Hamilton Crassus III with Aubrey Plaza hamming it up as his lover Wow Platinum. Meanwhile Shia LaBeouf is cast as his curious and corrupt trans-looking grandson Clodio Pulcher (Shia LaBeouf).

Coppola aims high, as he should do, but the film feels like an flashback to the 1980s, all gilded, burnished and blundering like a fancy-dress school play of Shakespeare with a sci-fi makeover that somehow looks old-fashioned in the scheme of contemporary special effects: the actors poncing around and quoting their literary lines in the hope this will give some integrity to what is really a confounding mess.

Adam Driver is the main character: he plays Cesar Catilina, a Nobel prize-winning ‘starchitect’ who is still recovering from the death of his wife, who he purportedly murdered: The jury is still out on this ambiguous plot line. Apparently he has invented a substance called Megalon which makes the building process more flexible. He intends to re-design and re-build parts of the city in a utopian scheme. Also tenuous is his mysterious control over time and space (?). Aubrey Plaza is fabulously vociferous as his long-term blond lover all done up in leopard skin with roots as dark as Kunta Kinte (she’s a busy woman romantically – it seems – as she also has a clinch with Clodio not to mention Crassus). But then Cesar falls for Julia the bland daughter of Cicero (Esposito) the city’s mayor (and his arch rival) who is all about noble things like decent pay, sanitation, new schools and hospitals. Julia (Nathalie Emmanuel) is all about ‘creating a home’ and these various factions come into conflict with each other: the creative, forward-thinking and the social-minded face of urban existence.

There are some inspiring elements: Driver and Emmanuel riding a sort of watch face that floats over Manhattan. I seem to have forgotten the others. But the idea that America is still great gradually fades with hollow laughter. Brazen, brash and bloated this is a step too far. @MeredithTaylor




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