Laremy Legel December 17, 2010
Sofia Coppola‘s latest film, Somewhere, if distilled down to the film’s most basic theme, goes a little something like: “Everyone has problems, even the rich and famous.” Clearly, this is an odd point to make, as many in our culture seek fame and fortune above all, but it is no less valid for the disconnect. And the film, while pointing out the pleasantries that go hand in hand with celebrity, also hammers home the massive sense of isolation that comes with everyone knowing your name while you wander through a party. That the movie is able to make us care about the rich guy on-screen is a testament to Coppola’s prodigious gifts — that she’s able to sell depression wrapped in a Ferrari is a tribute to her increasing skill level. This is a natural bookend to Lost in Translation, though thematically it is a prequel, as Bill Murray’s character is about 20 years ahead of the protagonist presented in Somewhere.
Johnny Marco (played terrifically by Stephen Dorff) is a guy everyone recognizes. He’s an A-list star, he dates actresses, he does press junkets and answers inane questions. He flies to Europe on a whim, and he can drive whatever car he likes. He’s also propositioned for sex on a near-hourly basis. This seems like a good life until you realize that all the booze, women, and “experiences” are blending together. Marco’s life is presented as the bachelor party weekend you’d kill for, but there’s a reason the majority of people then go on to get married. Not knowing your fling’s name is captivating once or twice. Making a lifestyle of it? It becomes rather pathetic.
Enter Elle Fanning as his daughter, Cleo. Her connection to her father is tenuous at best, and she’s learning some fairly awful lessons about how to attract a man’s attention while at his side. Cleo shows up for the occasional weekend, plays video games, and exits without much fanfare, but all the while you can see Johnny probing at the edge of his own values. He smiles through interviews and smokes his cigarettes with a James Dean-level of cool points, but there doesn’t seem to be much spark behind his eyes until he’s interacting with Cleo. Something elemental clicks in him, and on an impromptu excursion to Italy you can feel Marco’s attempt, for perhaps the first time in years, to relate to another human.
That said, Johnny Marco rarely seems like a father, because he’s too busy playing an actor during the running time of his real life. He’s the suave fellow who lives at a hotel so he can order food and shuffle the ladies in and out without commitment. He’s far short of a full deck on the emotional range, and it’s occasionally tough to tell if he’s smart or just lucky where his career is concerned. There’s a scene where prop guys wrap his face in plaster to make a mold for CGI, and they just leave him there for hours, completely covered. He doesn’t move, though it must be horrifically claustrophobic; in a way he’s become the perfect trained dog. Which, again, is sad.
Johnny Marco, the man who has it all, actually doesn’t have anything of value. That’s Somewhere.
Due partly to the lovely scenery and music, it’s hard not to enjoy a stylish film like Somewhere. The plot isn’t world-beating, and it’s more a series of vignettes into the isolation of celebrity than anything else. But it’s nice to watch, it breezes along, and it is easy to discern what Coppola is getting at. Making one point well is something most films never get around to. Making one film beautiful is a level of competence most directors can’t hack. A film that handles both with relative ease? I’ll spend some time alone with that kind of movie, thanks for asking, though I’d prefer to have company.
Categories: ReviewsTags: Movie review, Sofia coppola, Somewhere