Jason Schwartzman plays a young man trying to come up with something to write in a cafe. Kirsten Dunst plays a cute waitress giving him a refill. As his eyes meet hers he is instantly starts fantasizing about what it would be like to be with her. His mind starts drifting away, as he imagines their life together. They fall in love and do a lot of silly, but cutesy little things together. It’s all (well, mostly) innocent fun, until he wakes up. Was it just a dream? Hang on: There’s a twist.
Non Plus One was co-written and co-directed by Gia Coppola (Sofia Coppola’s niece) and Tracy Antonopoulos (someone’s niece, I’m sure). It’s a five minute French New Wave inspired short film starring Jason Schwartzman (another Coppola) and Kirsten Dunst (a family friend by now). This is a very bubbly, upbeat and joyous little short edited almost like an avant-garde film, so that people with short attention spans such as myself can still be entertained and feel somewhat smart at the same time.
Non Plus One really feels more like a videoclip than a standard film. There is no dialogue, so the story is told purely through visuals and music. The film begins with complete absence of sound for about one minute. Then Coconut Records’ (yes, that’s Jason Schwartzman’s indie pop project) Is This Sound Okay? kicks in and the fun begins. The song used over the end credits comes from Jason’s younger brother Robert Schwartzman‘s musical project Solobob.
Although Gia only co-directed this film, there’s something distinctly Coppola about it. If you’re familiar with Francis Ford, Sofia or even Roman’s films you will recognize some of the same DNA coming through the celluloid here. Of course it helps that so many Coppolas were involved in the making of this film (look at the special thanks in the credits if you want more). But beyond that what’s striking is how music is used almost exactly like it would be in a Sofia Coppola film.
Undoubtedly Gia must have learned a great deal from Sofia, and I mean that in the best possible way (see picture above: Non Plus One vs. Somewhere). Although the plot of Non Plus One is very loose and not very original (aside from the ending), there’s a certain freshness and vibrancy to it, which helps the film differentiating itself and work on its own. Once again, the music is the key here, because it gives the short a great energy and a sense of light heartedness and carefreeness.
Visually the film is interesting as well. The filmmakers seem to be going back to a 50s technicolor aesthetic, shooting on film and with very bright and mostly primary colors (prevalently red and yellow). The film also cleverly uses symbolism to add a humorous touch, but also as a storytelling device. The purposely unsubtle symbols used allow the filmmakers to approach sexual themes in a casual, non-vulgar and playful way, avoiding distracting tonal shifts.
Overall, I enjoyed Non Plus One quite a bit. It’s colorful, cheerful and very Coppola. It is a bit rough on the edges, meaning especially the beginning, where the no-sound thing really just kind of throws you off and the ending where the editing is a little too “choppy”. Other than that however this is a solid short, which shows a lot of promise for a young filmmaker from which I hope we’ll hear a in the future. Schwartzman and Dunst are as delightful and charming as ever.
7.5 out of 10