Somewhere

Somewhere is a continuation of Sophia Coppola’s melancholy exploration of loneliness. It’s Ms. Coppola’s fourth feature film, and it’s been terribly interesting watching her evolve, and how she experiments with film. First, it was The Virgin Suicides, my personal favorite. A story full of isolation and the melancholy, but also plump full of plot. She departed from the normal expectations of plot in favor of mood and atmosphere which came off remarkably well in her second film Lost in Translation. Next, she went on to Marie Antoinette, experimenting again with the other facets of film outside of solid storylines, focusing on the lack of happiness while surrounded by wealth and privilege.. For me, Marie was a success, but that opinion seems to be polarizing. And now we have Somewhere, a strikingly beautiful film of more melancholy, isolation and loneliness surrounded by wealth and privilege.

Johnny Marco (Stephen Dorff) is a perceived Hollywood badboy who’s shacking up at the famed Chateau Marmont.  It seems he’s busy making one movie, while promoting another.  His brother (Chris Pontius) plans parties in Johnny’s room, where promiscuous women throw themselves at the star, sometimes without him even having to say a word. But he’s bored with the life, he’s unhappy. I know, it sounds like normal Hollywood self-indulgence and you’ll be damned if you’re going to sympathize with a man who has all material needs and desires immediately cared for. But Johnny is not, or should not, be the focus that Ms. Coppola had in mind for Somewhere. What you should be paying attention to, is a carefully, and methodically thought out examination of the lifestyle.

Johnny smokes and drinks, he does drugs. He hires lackluster prostitutes to bring in portable poles and do choreographed (but never sexy) routines in themed outfits. Half the time, he can’t even stay awake for it. He falls asleep with his head between the legs of his latest conquest. But he perks up when his daughter Cleo (Elle Fanning), appears. It seems logical to see Cleo as an autobiographical character for Coppola. But it seems overly simplistic to assume this, which would bring too definitive a view on the themes explored here. After all, it’s safe to assume she’s far too smart for this. Cleo becomes one of the most interesting characters of Somewhere. She takes advantage of the perks offered in order to maintain a semblance of normalcy. This is made clear in a scene where she orders the ingredients for a homemade meal from room service, and cooks it herself. While Johnny does show a genuine interest in Cleo, she’s a fleeting influence in his life. And while they can share time together, shared custody and restored solitariness looms overhead.

Coppola’s direction is paired beautifully with Harris Savides’ cinematography, and we are often treated to stunning images that seem to come from Hollywood’s golden age. It’s easy to see borrowed influences from Michelangelo Antonioni films (particularly L’avventura, and La Notte), perhaps inspired by a short trip Cleo and Johnny take to Italy for a ridiculous awards show. The long shots, mostly free of dialog is a style that isn’t immediately familiar to many movie-goers. And it’s a possible turn off. But it must be understood that Somewhere must not be approached the same way one would The Fighter, or Black Swan. While we are asked to pay very close attention, we’re not asked to do so for very long, the film runs only ninety eight minutes. It’s a different kind of film. But it’s proof that Sophia Coppola is not a one hit wonder, and she is getting everything she wants to out of every project she does. I can’t wait to see what she does next.

★★★★

Comments
7 Responses to “Somewhere”
  1. filmgeek says:

    Glad to see a well written, positive review of the film. Can’t wait to see it; I love Sofia Coppola
    filmgeek´s last blog post ..Poster Highlights of the Year

  2. Hi Blake,

    I have yet to see this film (which I’m waiting for to arrive in Atlanta) and it’s the one film I’m dying to see more than anything right now.

    I consider myself as an amateurish scholar of Sofia’s work. She is my favorite director and LIT is my all-time favorite film. I knew “Somewhere” is the kind of film that will divide audiences about the film and her work as an auteur. I’m trying to keep my expectations low for the time being.

    I really did like “Marie Antoinette” though I was a bit disappointed by it at first. Then when I re-watched it when I bought the DVD. I realized what she was trying to do which was to make not just an anti-period film but also play against the conventions of the bio-pic.

    She’s a much braver director than a lot of women out there and I’m always looking forward to whatever she does next.
    Steven Flores´s last blog post ..A Christmas Tale

  3. Branden says:

    I want to see this movie so bad. When is it coming? I’m surprised it’s not getting awards attention.

  4. Blake says:

    @ filmgeek – Thanks, geek! I’m looking forward to hearing what you think!

    @ Steven – I’ll be interested to hear what you think about it. To be honest, I was a bit annoyed that the film was more like LIT. But as I put away my ridiculous expectations, I realized the film is just radically different, and radically awesome. Glad to hear someone else liked Marie Antoinette! There aren’t that many of us out there!

    @ Branden – I’m guessing Oscar will pay at least some attention to Somewhere. I hope at least. It got a limited released December 17th and is slowly expanding. It won’t come to my area for quite a while I’m sure. I had to see it while traveling for Christmas.

  5. Colin says:

    A Well-written and thoughtful review. I watched this today and it surprised me. I expected to have no time for it whatsoever, and fully anticipated looking at my watch the whole time, and yet the movie flew by. I have a feeling I may take a different moral from it than intended (I’m going for ‘you can have all the fame in the world,but it all pales when compared to the pride of one’s child’) but I thoroughly enjoyed it – this, coming from a perso who disliked LiT intently.

  6. Vanessa says:

    I haven’t gotten around to writing a review of this yet but I absolutely loved it as well.
    I agree with you on Marie Antoinette…it’s a great film! But not sure about Virgin Suicides. I watched it a long time ago so maybe I should give it another try since I adore all of her other work…
    Vanessa´s last blog post ..Little Fockers

  7. Blake says:

    @ Colin – It’s about time we agreed on one of the year’s biggest awards hopefuls! Glad we found some middle ground. Are you sure about LIT? No chance you’ll change your mind?

    @ Vanessa – I have full confidence that if you give The Virgin Suicides a chance, I’m sure you’ll love it. Especially if you agree with me about Marie Antoinette!

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