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I still can’t forget about the worst film I have ever seen

Adam Driver in Megalopolis
Adam Driver stars in the ‘baffling’ Megalopolis, which will be out in cinemas in the UK and Ireland in September – if you dare (Picture: Lionsgate Films)

It’s no surprise Francis Ford Coppola wanted to premiere his latest cinematic effort Megalopolis at the Cannes Film Festival earlier this year.

It’s just a shame that with his $120,000,000 comeback film Megalopolis, he’s made possibly one of the worst films I’ve ever seen.

And I say that with the greatest of respect for the legendary, Oscar-winning auteur.

I still can’t stop thinking about it, weeks on.

Alongside the triumphs of The Godfather and Apocalypse Now, he’s had other misses in his career like One From the Heart.

That’s what happens when you take wild swings – an admirable quality in and of itself – but Megalopolis is by far the most startling, grand and at times incomprehensible film that he’s made.

The baffled buzz over Coppola’s film, his first standard (well, as much as he gets) production since 2011’s Twixt, kicked off in March after its unveiling to the film industry.

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A character sitting at a desk holding a mask in front of their face in a scene from Megalopolis
The film is Coppola’s first in more than 10 years (Picture: Lionsgate Films)

Reports followed that it was ‘bats**t’ with industry insiders predicting Coppola’s independent flick would struggle to find distribution, which it has. That came across as utterly ridiculous to the director’s fans – but having seen it, I can understand the confusion.

It’s a feat to totally break with convention when it comes to a film, for which Coppola should be applauded – and also helps point to the polarised reception Megalopolis has received. Some people loved it!

But for me, the plot holes were too gaping and the message too muddled, in a movie that attempts to span medicine, engineering, history, sociology, politics and sci-fi, to name but a few small concepts.

A character wearing a floral headdress in a scene from Megalopolis.
The sci-fi(ish) film is one of the worst I’ve ever seen (Picture: Lionsgate Films)

Coppola’s passion project Megalopolis has been in the making since the 1980s – and unfortunately, it shows.

Megalopolis is a heavily Roman-inspired epic set in an imagined modern America where a genius architect called Cesar Catalina (Driver) seeks to build a utopian, idealistic future for New Rome while butting horns with arch-conservative mayor, Franklyn Cicero (Esposito).

And not that it appears to have much impact on the film, but Driver’s Cesar can stop time, as you do.

The joke has been made that it’s clear Coppola thinks about the Roman Empire multiple times a day, and has been for the past 40 or so years. This is evident in the women’s draping dresses, Driver’s haircut and the baffling character of Shia LaBeouf, who goes full out with his classical costume when he opts to crossdress for a grand celebration – just one of many things that’s not properly explained.

A character walking through a hallway in a scene from Megalopolis
Megalopolis features an all-star cast including Aubrey Plaza (pictured), Giancarlo Esposito, Jon Voight and Dustin Hoffman alongside Adam Driver (Picture: Lionsgate Films)

Adam Driver commits to his central role as Cesar, who is supposedly our hero but decidedly unsympathetic. Frequently lauded as a genius, his plans to develop his city are to uphold the downtrodden – but his ego and curtness seem somewhat at odds with this.

As an actor, Driver is asked to gamely produce breakdowns, an intense convulsing fit and even contend with losing part of his face. But even within the chaotic and confusing energy of a film like Megalopolis, these bold choices don’t always land. A perfect example of this is the way he decides to chastise Julia Cicero (Nathalie Emmanuel), the party-girl daughter of his rival, for spending time ‘in da cluuub’, just like 50 Cent commented on in 2003.

Emmanuel for her part holds her own in the starry ensemble piece – also featuring Laurence Fishburne, Dustin Hoffman, Jon Voight and Aubrey Plaza – offering a natural performance, despite the odd lack of character development and Julia’s abrupt decision to pursue a relationship with Driver’s Cesar.

A scene from Megalopolis
Megalopolis has a lot of plot holes (Picture: Lionsgate Films)

Esposito makes for a worthy adversary for Driver, fully committed and almost Shakespearean in his performance, lending a gravitas to Megalopolis that is not always there in Coppola’s uneven and sometimes cringey dialogue. He’s supposedly the villain, but his humanity is much more intact than that of Driver’s Cesar.

He also brings down the house with one underplayed brow-raise when contending with the consequences of Cesar and his daughter’s relationship.

Plaza is perhaps the standout in the film, very much having already embraced the weird energy that runs through Megalopolis in her own career – she appears entirely at home as ruthless journalist Wow Platinum (yes, truly), ready to use her wiles in whatever way to her best advantage.

Voight too makes quite a splash as banker Hamilton Crassus III, the richest man in New Rome, putting in a… vigorous performance. He also plays a plumb role in the film’s most surprising scene – and that’s saying something in Megalopolis.

A scene from Megalopolis
The movie cost an eyewatering $120million to produce (Picture: Lionsgate Films)

As an actor, it’s absolutely understandable that you would take the call of someone like Francis Ford Coppola and simply hope it turned out for the best. Even if it didn’t in this case, alas.

However, despite everything I have found fault with, I would encourage as many people as possible to see Megalopolis.

It’s an ambitious project unlike anything I’ve seen before, which is sure to provoke ferocious debate.

Many have already praised it and, regardless of anything else, it is a feat to behold. Coppola said what the hell, embraced the risk, and did what he wanted.

There’s also every chance I’ll look foolish when awards season comes around and Hollywood decides to honour Coppola, who has always been a visionary.

I won’t begrudge it, but I doubt I’ll eat my words.

Megalopolis premiered at Cannes Film Festival on May 16, and will be out in cinemas in the UK and Ireland on September 27.

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