In Sofia Coppola’s fourth directorial effort, Somewhere, time has not been good to her talents. Perhaps talent isn’t the right word. Maybe it hasn’t been kind to what Coppola has chosen to put up on the screen. In The Virgin Suicides, she showed great promise in the tender story about life in the suburban 70s. Lost in Translation really put Coppola on the map with a terrific, uncompromising tale of a different kind of companionate love and kinship between Bill Murray and Scarlett Johansson. Reteaming with Kirsten Dunst for Marie Antoinette, Coppola began her backslide taking four years to deliver this road-to-nowhere feature Somewhere? Let us hope the future holds better things for Ms. Coppola.
In Somewhere, not much happens plot or story-wise. We are introduced to the life of Johnny Marco (Stephen Dorff) an apparently successful actor who has grown bored living the life of luxury. His life in between film shoots consists hard partying: drinking, smoking, eating and having anonymous sex with model types. These activities are occasionally interrupted by attending press junkets, accepting foreign awards and spending quality time with his neglected 11 year-old daughter Cleo (Elle Fanning). The latter activity is so infrequent that Johnny barely knows her. Their time together is spent on small talk and videogame sessions. Yet Dorff manages to convey that Johnny does care for Cleo, he just has trouble expressing it while trying to maintain his privileged lifestyle.
Coppola’s work here is actually an examination of the detached nature of celebrity disguised as something else. As for what that something else is, it’s anyone’s guess. A ‘directionless mess’ comes to mind, yet Coppola is too smart for that. There are flashes of interesting ideas at times, but they are fleeting and hard to uncover beneath the bloated, minimalistic art house snobbery present here. Yes, we understand the film is meant to be a metaphor of Johnny’s life and where he wants to end up once he sobers up long enough to realize that the shallow glitz of attention and meaningless sex do not bring true happiness (he actually falls asleep during a pole dancing sequence performed by blonde twins early in the film). And that’s fine if that’s the film you want to do. But it has already been done before and better, by superior filmmakers (Woody Allen comes to mind).
The problem here is that the audience is subject to a barrage of endless shots highlighting the emptiness of Johnny’s life: booze and sex primarily. It’s just that it’s constant and reeks of indie grunge, but really comes across as more of a pretentious bore. The opening scene is just Johnny riding around a track in his awesome movie star car about eight times or so. The static sequence clocks in at about two and a half minutes. Later in the film we get to watch as Johnny drinks whole beers and smokes entire cigarettes. Yes, we get it, yet are still forced to sit through the director’s excesses; the cinematic landscape was rife with sprawling instances of nothingness echoing Vincent Gallo’s The Brown Bunny.
There were some tender moments between the uncertain father and humble daughter, such as ice skating practice or making a game out of Johnny’s paranoia about paparazzi. But in the end, it isn’t Johnny’s fault; he’s doing exactly what we’ve come to expect out of this Entourage persona. The real culprit is Coppola whose screenplay seemed about 10 pages long. In the hands of a capable filmmaker, that’s not an issue, that’s where skill and experience come into play. Coppola’s no stranger to either, the only thing she seems sure about here is her own uncertainty how to proceed with the material. It’s not that it is necessarily a bad film, but its overwrought aimless sensibilities dull both the journey and destination making it hard to recommend. When it comes down to it, Somewhere just doesn’t go anywhere.
FINAL GRADE: C-
TRR Revue by Jacob Aquino