Sofia Coppola returns to familiar territory with her latest film, “Somewhere.” More rewarding than the somewhat disappointing “Marie Antoinette,” “Somewhere’s” simplistic and intimate storyline about a lost A-list actor is very refreshing. While some may not enjoy the movie’s unhurried pace, I found the film fascinating. Sofia Coppola’s long and intrusive shots made “Somewhere” feel like a case study — the subject, a man who has everything yet is seemingly unhappy.
Johnny Marco (Stephen Dorff) is a Farrari-driving playboy who lives in the Chateau Marmont where he is often entertained by twin pole dancers.
An action star, Marco is a part of a big franchise, yet his status doesn’t impress his co-star Rebecca (Michelle Monaghan), who can’t stand him. Similar to the films he makes, one would think a man of his status lead an exciting life. We soon discover his world is pretty mundane.
He spends hours sitting on the ledge of his balcony looking nowhere. Sexual liaisons with beautiful young women, although fun, are not as exciting as they once were. Enter Johnny’s daughter Cleo (Elle Fanning), whose very presence shakes things up a bit. Out of nowhere, Cleo’s mother informs Johnny she needs a break, dropping their daughter on him for a few weeks before she goes off to summer camp.
Due to Marco’s film schedule and lifestyle, father and daughter barely know each other. Yet through video game tournaments, ice-skating practice and a trip to Milan, they grow close and Johnny begins to realize how much of Cleo’s life he missed out on. A bittersweet moment happens right as the 11-year-old heads off to camp. Another follows once Marco is forced to face his loneliness.
“Somewhere” was brilliantly shot. By choosing to capture Marco’s everyday routine through lengthy close-ups, the viewer becomes completely engaged. I know I was. An unconventional way to tell a narrative, this proves challenging for the actor. In Stephen Dorff’s case, since most of his scenes are solo, he is forced to draw entirely upon himself. If he mugged for the camera, his performance would have read insincere, hokey even. Thankfully, Dorff’s portrayal of a 30-something celebrity searching for a sense of direction was authentic and not artificial.
Elle Fanning was simply radiant. She conveyed the light Marco lacked in his lowly life perfectly and the pair’s chemistry was just right. Much of the perfect cohesion can be attributed to the fact that Coppola, with permission from Fanning’s parents, had Dorff pick Fanning up from school daily before the project began, creating a bond between the two.
Similar to “Lost in Translation,” “Somewhere” is character driven. Minimalism is Sofia Coppola’s forte. She also has the uncanny knack of leaving the viewer wanting for more. In the film’s opening scene, Johnny Marco races his Ferrari in circles, obviously headed nowhere. But by the time the credits roll, it’s made very clear he’s headed somewhere. Where to exactly? That’s up to the viewer to decide.
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