written and directed by Roman Coppola with Jeremy Davies, Angela Lindvall, and Jason Schwartzman opens May 31 at Metro
MIKE MYERS' Austin Powers farces have suckled satirical gold from the retro-futuristic T&G (tits and gadgets) spy genre, and Woody Allen has parodied himself ad nauseam as a neurotic, self-obsessed artist searching for "truth" in a sewer of commercial tripe. In his directorial debut, Roman Coppola sets out to prove that these old comedic wells haven't yet run dry. He's wrong, of course, but CQ is nevertheless an amusing trifle that hardly disgraces the family name. Its easygoing charm certainly stands above the dead horses Allen and Myers have recently beaten.
A startlingly debonair Jeremy Davies (Saving Private Ryan) assumes the Allen archetype as Paul, a film editor who documents every insignificant facet of his Parisian life as an antidote to the studio schlock he trims by day. Paul's pretty girlfriend, Marlene, finds this endeavor pointless but adores her man anyway. These feelings aren't quite reciprocal; the sci-fi fantasia of Paul's work life seeps into his waking life, triggering fanciful hallucinations about the eponymous starlet of his most recent exploitation flick, Dragonfly (set in the year 2000).
Offscreen, babe-alicious secret agent Dragonfly is beautiful Valentine (Angela Lindvall), who makes herself surprisingly available to Paul as he moves up the studio food chain. (Meanwhile, Marlene drifts farther away.) Paul's simultaneous ascent from diligent editor to Dragonfly's third director is easily CQ's funniest subplot. Director number one, the pretentious Andrezej (G鲡rd Depardieu), is canned because he likes action films that "go out with a whimper," paving the way for director number two, Felix (Rushmore's Jason Schwartzman), a hack pulled from the ranks of C-grade vampire movies.
Coppola deadens CQ's pace by spotlighting Davies—whom, for the first time, we'd rather ogle than scrutinize—as a curiously bland fly on the wall amid these booming primary-color personalities. Coppola is too tentative to deliver the knockout blow in sequences where big laughs seem to be crouching on the horizon. That he narrows his focus to Paul and Valentine's fairly conventional romance is disappointing, especially since CQ's very subtext mocks cinematic predictability. Although Paul's personal documentary ultimately shows at an independent film festival, we could do without his Knowing Nod upon listening to his own ponderous voice-overs. Interestingly, the only satisfactory ending on hand belongs to Dragonfly. It's a fiendishly clever twist that transcends the film-within-a-film, but it stops short of saving CQ.