Directed by: Sofia Coppola (Marie Antoinette)
Starring: Stephen Dorff, Elle Fanning, Chris Pontius, Michelle Monaghan
The mere fact that I didn’t hate Sofia Coppola’s latest meditation on the ennui of the rich and privileged, Somewhere, is something of a shock. This seems to be the filmmaker’s only theme and her vision of the entire world—to such a degree that it’s hard not to think that she might well be as clueless about anything or anyone outside of her world as the doomed title character of her Marie Antoinette (2006). And that’s no different here, but she finally suggests the possibility of going—yeah, somewhere (in the most Antonioni-esque manner imaginable). Granted, this is mostly conveyed by the juxtaposition of the film’s opening scene and its closing one, meaning there’s 80-odd minutes of malaise to wade through to get to the point. Whether or not the journey from nowhere to the possibility of somewhere is worth taking is going to vary wildly from viewer to viewer.
The film opens with movie star Johnny Marco (Stephen Dorff) driving his black Ferrari around in circles in the middle of nowhere. (Symbolism doesn’t get much more obvious.) This seems to go on for some considerable time. The action then moves to Johnny in residence at the famous Chateau Marmont Hotel in Los Angeles. He’s apparently between residences, and has holed up there while he waits for a broken wrist (ostensibly gained while doing a stunt in a movie, but actually a drunken fall) to heal. He whiles away the time with such worthy pursuits as having twin blonde pole dancers (they bring their own poles) dance for him. (Whether this manages to raise anything more than a weak smile from him is never really answered.) He drinks. He has casual sex. He receives abusive text messages. He manages to go to a press conference.
Fortunately—for both the viewer and Johnny—this changes when he finds his 11-year-old daughter Cleo (Elle Fanning) more or less dumped on him by his ex-wife (maybe she saw The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert). Their relationship—to the degree it can be called that—is awkward and strained. He takes her to an ice-skating class, asks how she learned to do that, and is embarrassed to find she’s had three years of lessons. She often seems to disapprove of his actions (especially as concerns women) and tends to seem more adult than he does. However, this slowly—being Sofia Coppola, very slowly—begins to change. And as that happens, the film becomes progressively appealing and human. It’s also why I ended up liking the film far more than the first reel or so ever suggested.
No, I don’t think Somewhere is anything like a great film or even a very good one, but I do think—as long as you can get into its leisurely pace—it’s worth a look. As always seems to be the case, the question again arises as to whether or not the film is somewhat autobiographical. Is there a parallel to be drawn between Cleo and Johnny and Sofia Coppola and her famous father? That’s hard to say—certainly, it can’t be argued with any certainty—but it does have a personal feeling. Rated R for sexual content, nudity and language.