' ' Cinema Romantico: Tiffany Trump, a Sofia Coppola Film

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Tiffany Trump, a Sofia Coppola Film

“She has a decided predilection for showing empty moments in human lives and deals with characters who continually expose the void within themselves.” This is how Anna Rogers described Sofia Coppola’s oeuvre in a wonderful analysis of the impeccable director in 2007 for Senses of Cinema, and I thought of that line as I watched Tiffany Trump, daughter of Donald and Marla Maples, speak this past Tuesday night at the Republican National Convention. The twenty-two year old Tiffany, recent graduate of Penn, California resident as opposed to an east coaster like her father and three half-siblings, was tasked with imparting the notion that her pops is a family man, enlisted to soften the bronzed ogre who once told Buzzfeed “Marla used to say, ‘I can’t believe you’re not walking Tiffany down the street,’ you know in a carriage. Right, I’m gonna be walking down Fifth Avenue with a baby in a carriage. It just didn’t work.”

That guy, however, the one that wouldn’t walk down Fifth Avenue with a baby carriage bearing his own flesh and blood, still seemed to emerge, inadvertently but tellingly, in Tiffany’s speech. Where some people claimed to see humanization in Tiffany’s slight anecdotes about her father, Ruth Graham of Slate saw a “sad, vague tribute”, “praise (that) was edged with sadness: He’s good with advice, (Tiffany) said, but ‘he keeps it short.’” “It’s telling,” Claire Landsbaum observed for The Cut, “that neither anecdote she chose to include actually involves her father’s physical presence.” That might be attributed to Marla choosing to move her daughter across the country to California, but then Donald is the same guy that flew to the Iowa State Fair last year to take other kids for rides on his helicopter, and I can’t help but wonder if Tiffany caught that footage on the NBC Evening News and wondered why her dad never took her for rides in his luxurious whirlybird. “Her father,” Graham notes, “doesn’t follow her on Twitter, and he rarely mentions her.” And if that sounds like maudlin millennial nonsense (waaaaah! He doesn’t follow me on Twitter!), well hey, it kinda is, a signal of what constitutes important values in these ludicrous times, where even if Tiffany has a vaunted Snap Pack, she can’t get a follow from dear old Dad.

The pain that a lack of a Twitter follow might cause is something that seems ripe for a Sofia Coppola movie, since she is a skillful chronicler of both the toll of emotional isolation and the moneyed morose, whether it’s the young Queen of France suddenly plunked down in Versailles where she doesn’t know a soul or a confused newlywed sitting on a window ledge overlooking the expanse of Tokyo, inundated with people yet all alone. And Coppola observes her characters, Rogers writes for Senses of Cinema, “Through the use of dead time, liminal images that hang between dream and reality, a wandering and restless camera-eye that mirrors the gaze of the protagonists, and discrepancies between visual and sound tracks, crisis can be directly translated into the image.” And the story of Tiffany Trump, which has been less documented than her attention-craving father’s, now eking out in various details scattered across the cyber-megacosm, comes across readymade for Sofia’s image-heavy style, a perfect aesthetic to expose the void within her subject.

Think of the recording session of Tiffany’s ill-fated pop ditty “Like a Bird” that has been making the unfortunate Interwebs rounds, a song with nothingness posing as lyrics and swathed in autotune, so much that you leave it with less of a feel for who Tiffany Trump is than you had before cranking it, and which I imagine Sofia transforming into less of a cruelly funny “You’ve Got the Touch” and more the improbable melancholy of “More Than This.” Think of Tiffany missing her mother’s appearance on “Dancing with the Stars” to stay at school and study, which sounds like the sort of existential crisis only the rich & famous know, but that I have no doubt Sofia could translate into something uniquely heartbreaking, Erin Andrews chortling on the TV while Tiffany wistfully looks on, a Romanesque art book in her lap. And Coppola would wring genuine ache from places where seemingly none should be found, putting Tiffany side by side with the storefront window of Tiffany & Company, for whom she was named, in the dying afternoon light, rendering rich girl tragedy.

Still, no image could carry more impact than the one broadcast across the nation on Tuesday, one so supremely cinematic that it momentarily transcended the rageful space in which it occurred, moving me in a way I found as beautiful as I did strange. You can be alone, of course, amidst the multitudes, and that’s what Tiffany Trump was, specifically standing up for a man who couldn’t even bother to be there, projecting himself instead on a video screen from the comfort of New York, which is where he’s always been while his daughter has always been somewhere else. After the speech, scribes inevitably weighed in on how well Tiffany did or did not do. I wondered if her Dad might pull up those Internet report cards, scribble a few notes and send them to his daughter by email.

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