Photograph: American Zoetrope / Megalopolis / Mihai Malaimare Jr.
  • Film


Francis Ford Coppola’s grand vision of a crumbling America is pompous and fun-free

Dave Calhoun

Time Out says

Enter with caution the pompous parallel world of Megalopolis, a long-awaited and self-funded passion project from writer-director Francis Ford Coppola. The great American auteur boldly attempts to distill the biggies of human co-existence – politics, power, sex – into a Shakespearean story set in a vision of a modern-ish New York City that he renames ‘New Rome’. A visionary scientist-architect, Cesar (Adam Driver) wants to transform this city for the future but runs up against powerful reactionary forces, including a conversative mayor, Cicero (Giancarlo Esposito), and an ageing tycoon (Jon Voight).

It’s no big leap to see Driver’s Cesar as a reflection of Coppola himself, fighting for a pure creative vision in the face of string-pullers keen to dampen or stamp out his creativity. The now octogenerian filmmaker is still best-known for his 1970s enfant terrible era masterpieces, Apocalypse Now and the first two Godfather films. In more recent years the Coppola name has been more strongly associated with his daughter Sofia and his own successful wine brand. ‘No vino, no movie’, so the financial backstory to Megalopolis runs, and you might need a couple of glasses of something strong to settle into its heady, trying, self-important vibe.

You’ll need something strong to settle into its self-important vibe

The finger-pointing at modern America is clear, yet the references to late Roman history and literature will need a classicist to unravel (I look forward to Mary Beard’s review). Given the ingredients (the deeply personal vision; a cast including Driver, Aubrey Plaza and Laurence Fishburne; the big budget; the years of gestation), it’s fair to wonder why it ends up being, one, so little fun, and two, so deadening on an intellectual level. 

Stylistically, it needed the touch of someone like Baz Luhrmann to make sense of the collision of past, present and future references. In Coppola’s hands, it looks like cheapo dress-up filtered through very expensive effects that were en vogue a generation ago.

Megalopolis premiered at the Cannes Film Festival.

Cast and crew

  • Director:Francis Ford Coppola
  • Screenwriter:Francis Ford Coppola
  • Cast:
    • Giancarlo Esposito
    • Aubrey Plaza
    • Shia LaBoeuf
    • Laurence Fishburne
    • Nathalie Emmanuel
    • Jon Voight
    • Dustin Hoffman
    • Adam Driver
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