Slow and unencumbered by sticky inconveniences like plot and character development, Somewhere goes nowhere. The film drifts from one episodic bit of nonsense to the next. All the while, father and daughter enjoy conveniences that no normal person could aspire to, and some mysterious plotline about threatening text messages wanders in on its way to another film.
I never think about Stephen Dorff, but I'm always glad when I see him in a film. For a while, I was compelled by his performance, but when I realized that the film forgot to figure out what its plot is, I stopped caring.
Overall, I'm starting to think that Sofia Coppola's one trick was Lost in Translation, but then there's The Virgin Suicides too, so I guess she's a two-trick pony.
Johnny is a bored, passionless Hollywood actor that has secluded himself at a hotel. He goes out only to do the obligatory duties of his career. His life is changed when his 11 year old daughter stays with him for awhile. He begins to slowly look at what his life has become and reexamine it.
Somewhere is a movie I enjoyed very much. It has Sofia Coppola's signature atmospheric tone to it, and Stephen Dorff and Elle Fanning both give terrific performances. Elle Fanning is the life of the movie, and we see her slowly reinvigorate that life in Dorff's character. This definitely isn't a movie for everyone though, as it seems to be the case with all of Coppola's films. For fans of her style though, this is a definite must see.
Often I felt compelled to hit "fast forward" as dreamy camera scenes panned either in or out - losing a footrace to a glacier. I get it - it's all part of the ennui - ok, the beginning scene made that abundantly clear, so Sophia had no need to continue to hit us over the head with it. I'm thinking that the truth of the matter is that Sophia the writer, didn't have enough of a story for a full fledged major film, so asked Sophia the director to stretch it out a bit. In an odd bit of irony, there are some really bad editing cuts and abrupt fade to black moments - making it abundantly clear that much of the film was being scripted on the fly - little patchwork skits that were badly stitched together... like snapshots of a life Sophia felt compelled to give the rabble a glimpse into.
There's not much novel or even interesting in this expose on stardom. I felt I got more inside scoop watching Entourage for half a season. So much of what was presented were scenes that did nothing more than set the continuing mood, and really had not much to say or add to the narrative. This echoes "Lost In Translation" in the former, but not in the latter - and that's a huge difference. You can follow a method, but you have to have flow and purpose otherwise your effort seems derivative and unprofessionally slapped together. As an art school short subject, this would probably get a passing grade, but as a feature film from a director with some serious cred, you have to see more, otherwise the effort comes off as half hearted at best.
Gee, I guess I'm saying that this film really disappointed me - think I'll take my Ferarri and go in circles for an hour or so - that should make me feel better. As Louise Goffen once so aptly put it in her debut album "sometimes a circle seems like a direction".
The film has no real plot, and is instead a character study/mood piece examing Johhny's life, and a side of celebrity that makes them seem as bored and ordinary as the rest of us. Yeah, that's right, this is a study in boredom, and, it's actually better than I was thinking it might be given the mixed reviews. The themes being dealt with are that of ennui (boredom), family, and the hollowness of celebrity. Rather than be a bitter or spieful satire like say Sunset Boulevard, this is a more subdued, and minimilasit look at celebrity life.
Sure, the film is a tad melancholy, but it's not really depressing, and it wisely avoids being overly sentimental with how it depicts Johnny's relationship with his daughter. Oh sure, there's some staples of "bonding" moments, but the film doesn't feel hammy or cliched, and instead kinda seemed a little genuine. Coppola said the film has somewhat inspired by her own life, but that the film was not autobiographical.
It's only 98 minutes long, but as you may have heard, the pace is kinda slow. It's never felt tedious or boring though (to me at least). I have ADHD and I felt rahter engaged . WHat I liked about the movie, but what also made it hard for me to watch, was that I could relate to what I was seeing because my own life is a lot like Johnny's in that I spend a lot fo time alone in my apartment detached from the world and not really doing a whole lot. Just because I got through the film though, doesn't mean everyoen will. It's not for everyone. If you like seeing a film that is relaxed and doesn't feel the need to rush through things, then you might like this. Though he is distant, the film does do a decent job of establishing that Marco is a kinda likeable.
The casting is pretty good, and it all feels very naturalistic and right. Dorff is pretty good as Johnny Marco and conveys the feelings of emptiness and boredom pretty well. He hasn't always been there for his kid, but he does care for her and tries to be a good guy. Elle Fanning is probably the one to watch here though. I like her sister, but this is her coming into her own and she does a good job playing a "showbiz" kid. She has perhaps a bit more worldly wisdom than most 11 years olds, but she still comes off as being a kid who has a lot yet to learn. He's not in it for a whole lot, but Chris Pontius also does a good job as Johnny's old friend Sammy, and it's nice seeing Pontius branch out and do something different than the Jackass type stuff that made him famous. I'd like to see him in more work, especially stuff like this.
All in all, this is a decent movie. I'd give it *ahem* somewhere between a B and a B+. It's one you have to be in the mood for, but if a leisurely pced slice of life story about bordeom sounds like what you want to see ,then go for it. It is admittedly a bit pretentious, but I've seen far more boring, meandering, and pretentious stuff than this, and those things made this seem breakneck, so there.
Perhaps subtle is an understatement. Sofia's narrative definitely takes some patience, At one point our protagonist is fitted for a special effects mold of his face. There is a long uninterrupted shot of him simply breathing through 2 nostril holes within a gooey, plaster mold, covering his head. The scene lingers for over a minute and a half. At first it's boring but then the purpose slowly works its way into the viewer's subconscious. This is not just an existence of vacations, parties and sex (although those play a big part too) but of day to day monotony that highlights his apparent dissatisfaction. This is yet another reevaluation of a life, but it seems to creatively tell the tale with a style that is fresh and unparalleled. If you can bask in the drama's indulgent pace, you'll walk away from this fable appreciating it. I did.
Director: Sofia Coppola
Summary: Set amid the hallowed grounds of Hollywood's legendary Chateau Marmont, this atmospheric dramedy centers on hard-living actor Johnny (Stephen Dorff), whose life is thrown for a loop when his 11-year-old daughter, Cleo (Elle Fanning), pays him a surprise visit.
My Thoughts: "It's a well done character study film. Johnny Marco is a lost soul. He's surrounded by people, but yet still feels very much alone. When his daughter Cleo visits that's when you see life in his eye's. He's not just some shell of life. Being with her makes him realize how empty his life is and that he needs to make changes. Elle Fanning is so good in this movie. I think she fits very well into the Indie flicks. She's a natural. Stephen Dorff really played the part well. It's been awhile since I've seen him in a movie. He was great. This isn't a film for everyone. It's quite slow paced and there isn't a lot of dialogue. But you feel very much like a fly on the wall observing this mans life. You feel the quiet loneliness that surrounds him. The film was enjoyable for me but may be a complete bore for those who do not like these types of films."
A hard-living Hollywood actor re-examines his life after his 11-year-old daughter surprises him with a visit.
Somewhere is a film that can be taken on several levels and depending on the willingness of the viewer to tolerate endless moments of stationary stillness it can either be a numbing bore, or it can be an intuitive examination of a life of the rich and famous and vacuous creatures the film industry supports. Given writer/director Sofia Coppola's personal background, it appears to this viewer that she has recreated that second stance.
The setting is the decadent Château Marmont, still a hideaway for stars and spot for manipulative interviews of stars by the nosey media, above Sunset Strip in Hollywood. Johnny Marco (Stephen Dorff) is a world famous movie star whose life is controlled by his PR manager Madge when he is not indulging in wild drunken parties with hired girls (he breaks his wrist early on, leaving him in a small arm cast). He admits to a new actor wannabe that he never trained for acting, that he just was discovered and became successful, leaving education and thinking behind, or drowned in alcohol. His private persona is pathetic, yet there is something about Johnny that attracts a need for companionship. Into this sorry state arrives his 11 year old daughter Cleo (Elle Fanning) who brings a sense of sparkle into Johnny's life: Cleo studies ballet and ice skating and is a mature, genuinely loving and talented daughter. Johnny's ex-wife Layla (Lala Sloatman) informs Johnny (and Cleo) that she is leaving for an indeterminate period of time and Johnny must take Cleo to her summer camp. But Johnny has public appearances and interviews to promote his latest feature film, requiring him to visit Milan, Italy, and Johnny simply takes Cleo along with him. Cleo adjusts well, tolerating the extended periods of ennui and the watching of glamorous women seducing her father, and finds that something in her father that Johnny has lost - a reason to be alive. There is no real beginning to this story and no end - it is just glimpses into a life wasted by self indulgence that has created a man with no purpose, observed by a talented daughter who must face the fact that she likely will be always baggage in the lives of both her parents, at times wanted and at times just as casually discarded.
Stephen Dorff inhabits this empty movie personality's life with surprising accuracy and Elle Fanning continues to prove that she is a growingly capable talent. Sofia Coppola's direction could use some tightening: some frozen scenes or views linger far too long on the screen, seemingly wasting time until the next idea arises. But that can also be a description of the life that has evaded Johnny Marco: there is so little to his real persona that the gaps must be filled with film or partially clothed women or alcohol. And if the viewer takes that approach to this film then there is a viable portrait here.
Perhaps it's because nothing ever seems to happen in the film. One of "Somewhere" 's opening scenes presents three minutes of the waiflike Cleo (Elle Fanning, "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button") ice-skating in a blue dress - nothing else: no cuts away, no stuntwork. But there's a strangely mesmerizing, almost hypnotic quality following Cleo's every move, every bent knee. Her father, the jaded actor Johnny Marco (Stephen Dorff, "Public Enemies"), looks up from his phone and it hits him what a flower his adolescent daughter has blossomed into - a ball of loneliness and pride wrapped into one.
Where "Somewhere" succeeds exquisitely is in communicating the language of temporality. Much of the film takes place inside the luscious, opulent Chateau Marmont Hotel - a languorous playground of a celebrity haunt where sin goes to bed with melancholy. In French, chateau means castle, and the term evokes a contained, Old World hollowness in which the kings have all died or become irrelevant.
Indeed, everything is synthetic here at the palace of the lost souls, even people. Protagonist Johnny Marco, a Hollywood actor trapped in the perpetual state of waiting, falls asleep in the midst of watching a soporific striptease starring two bombshell blonde-headed pole dancers. He falls asleep again later that night, this time whilst administering oral sex to a different leggy young thing. When his daughter, tall, willowy 12-year-old Cleo, decides to stay with him, Johnny needs to reprioritize. Cleo, more fairy sprite than an actual girl, brings to Johnny's isolated universe a mystical world of underwater tea parties and room-service pancakes.
Critics may deride Coppola's range. Why can't she move on from her comfortable cocoon of navel gazing to something a smidge more dynamic? We want action, excitement, they cry. But "Somewhere" 's static, almost therapeutic ambience works for it, and whatever is left unsaid unlocks a chasm of introspection. It's minimalism at its finest: The empty spaces are literally empty spaces. There are scenes seething with past memories of loneliness, repression, wanderlust - scenes that recall many a film in the Coppola discourse: Lux Lisbon's lace collared dress blowing in the wind, Charlotte's light pink briefs cradling her heart-shaped derriere, Marie Antoinette's toppling pile of shoes, bouffants and bonbons.
"Somewhere" might only strike a chord among a select few, but if you're patient, it can open petal by petal (to slightly rephrase ee cummings) an entire world for you. A silky tone poem saturated with an ennui as thick as the foggy, smoggy hills of Los Angeles, "Somewhere" bubbles with the most stirring ontological questions: What is real anymore? With all of the modern age's reflective surfaces and transient promises of fame, how do we find the thing that is genuinely authentic? We can go from womb to tomb without ever touching the essential qualities of existence - but somehow, "Somewhere" can bring us closer to them.