Although part of Hollywood royalty by name, Gia Coppola and her filmmaking credits — few in number as they may be — already excellently showcase the aptitude of a promising blossoming director working today. Her debut feature Palo Alto made for a fantastic start in the movie industry. Although it utilizes the dreamy cinematography that may remind us of another Coppola (her aunt Sofia), the movie’s narrative twists and warps those pretty visuals into a starkly confronting, timeless portrait of teen listlessness.
Palo Alto was released in 2013. Since then, I have wondered what Coppola’s next move would be. She has directed some music videos over the years, notably making some killer ones for Carly Rae Jepsen, but things have been quieter for her in the realm of feature films. Coppola had been announced to direct the biographical drama The Secret Life of the Lonely Doll back in 2016. The movie was meant to star the fearless Naomi Watts and indomitable Jessica Lange, who would have comprised a scenery-chewing pair for the ages. Sadly, production on the film appears to have stalled.
Deadline now reports that Coppola has turned her attention to Mainstream for her sophomore effort. She co-wrote and is slated to direct the film, which is vaguely described as an Internet-era romance drama consisting of “an eccentric love triangle” and the quest for self-actualization within an increasingly digitized world. That’s honestly not much of a summary to go off of. Thankfully, the cast that Coppola has put together is eclectic and noteworthy enough to grab our attention.
Andrew Garfield (Silence), Maya Hawke (BBC’s Little Women), Nat Wolff (Paper Towns), and Coppola’s own second cousin Jason Schwartzman (Rushmore) will lead Mainstream. Each of these actors exudes such distinct vibes courtesy of the movies they’ve done that it’s fascinating to see how their talents will eventually marry in Coppola’s film.
Garfield is most well-known for delivering heartrending performances. The nuance that he displays as an actor is distinctly wounding, regardless of the type of movie he goes for. Garfield’s stints on British television such as the TV movie Boy A and the serial adaptation of David Peace’s Red Riding Quartet are gritty, harrowing, and unforgiving dramatic affairs. But even when he’s a little goofier and more unmistakably charming in projects like The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus and The Amazing Spider-Man series, emotional turmoil underpins those depictions. What’s fantastic about Garfield is he doesn’t even have to embody a character who makes smart, likable decisions to be empathetic. And the more he gets to work with auteurs — as he does in The Social Network, Silence, and Under the Silver Lake, to name a few — the more he gets the opportunity to dive into in-depth character work. This allows for the richness of his portrayals to be more evident.
In contrast, Schwartzman is quirkier by far. One of his film partnerships also happens to include Sofia Coppola. Schwartzman features in two of her films; as a suitably awkward leading man in Marie Antoinette and a less consequential supporting role in A Very Murray Christmas. However, Schwartzman most often collaborates with Wes Anderson, where his offbeat onscreen persona shines brightest. Both men’s careers jump-started simultaneously with the comedy-drama Rushmore. Even when Schwartzman is part of a greater company, as he is in The Darjeeling Limited and Fantastic Mr. Fox, he effortlessly blends into the world of Anderson’s movies (while remaining delightfully recognizable to Anderson aficionados). More often than not, Schwartzman keeps it weird, engaging, and mostly comedic with excellent offerings in I Heart Huckabees, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, Big Eyes, and Saving Mr. Banks.
Wolff makes for a particularly intriguing addition to this cast, as it was Coppola who gave him one of his first worthy onscreen roles. I immediately recognized him upon first viewing of The Fault in Our Stars purely because he is so affecting as the volatile bad boy in Palo Alto. Among an ensemble cast turning in proficient performances, Wolff personifies unadulterated intensity so saliently that he stands out irrevocably. Wolff’s earlier years were filled with tons of potential, anyway. He’s an agreeable addition to the ensembles of Stuck in Love and Admission. It’s only more of a shame that his career seems to be lagging behind recently. Wolff’s comedies range from deplorable (Behaving Badly) to just okay (The Intern). John Green adaptations haven’t been the best fit for him either; Paper Towns suffers from a discernible lack of onscreen chemistry. Death Note is apparently getting a sequel, but the movie is a wholly unsatisfying attempt to adapt the famed manga of the same name. Wolff needs another Coppola project in his résumé and I seriously hope she works her magic.
Finally, Hawke, the true comparative newcomer in the Mainstream cast, is a blank slate. We’ll be seeing a lot more of her once Ladyworld, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, and the third season of Stranger Things are available to the wider public. For now, we just have one work from which to judge: Little Women. The BBC’s 2017 version of the classic Louisa May Alcott novel allows us to readily focus on how Hawke commands the screen as Jo March, arguably the most central sister in the March family. Hawke executes the role with liveliness and sincerity, demonstrating exactly why she ought to play more leads.
Thus far, Coppola has begun cultivating a filmic language that sets herself apart from the rest of her famous family. Nevertheless, she needs more films under her belt to really come into her own. That opportunity is inherent in Mainstream and with a cast as strong as this, we likely won’t be disappointed.