Romy Shiller

Somewhere

In Film, review on August 31, 2011 at 5:26 pm

Life is a sum of all your choices.
Albert Camus

Director: Sofia Coppola
Writer: Sofia Coppola
Stars: Stephen Dorff, Elle Fanning and Chris Pontius

I can’t imagine that this film is everyone’s cup of tea but I loved it. Hardly a word was spoken. The film emphasized the visual representation of isolation. I was reminded of Michael Snow’s,  Wavelength . That short, experimental film, uses one shot which slowly zooms in on a picture. Like Somewhere it requires patience, trust and commitment.

Plot: Somewhere is a 2010 drama film, written and directed by  Sofia Coppola, which won the  Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival. The film follows Johnny Marco, a newly famous actor played by  Stephen Dorff, as he recuperates from a minor injury at the  Chateau Marmont, a well-known Hollywood retreat. Despite money, fame and professional success, Marco is trapped in an  existential crisis and feels little emotion during his daily life. When her mother goes away, Cleo, Marco’s 11 year old daughter, played by  Elle Fanning, comes to stay and they spend time together; her presence helps Marco mature and accept adult responsibility. The film explores ennui among  Hollywood stars, the father-daughter relationship and also offers an oblique [commentary] of show business, particularly Hollywood film-making and the life of a “ star.”

Johnny Marco feels that his life is stagnant. This is mirrored by the camera shots which are often unmoving and stay in the same place. He is surrounded by groupies, fame and fortune but he is often alone. The juxtaposition between isolation and the multitude is great, lending itself well to his profession – actor. As a father, when he is with his daughter, there is more dialogue and action. He is less isolated. We don’t feel he is lonely. She is really well played by Elle Fanning (the younger sister of  Dakota Fanning) who is wry and emotional – the antithesis of her father.

Elle Fanning as Cleo is the colour of the work. She brings an added dimension to her father’s life. Her presence is layered and her gestures often comment on her father’s actions. For instance, in Italy a woman who sleeps with Marco shows up for breakfast. Cleo gives her father a disapproving glance. Cleo is vivacious, funny and a great cook. Her attention to detail in the preparation of food is completely the opposite of her father. Food is life – she nurtures it, he doesn’t.

The aesthetic is simple and raw, very unglamorous, mirroring the bare uncovering of identity. Even an attendance at an award show is not glitzy even though it’s showy. This film is about truth and in this case it is sparse, you know? The party scenes are not slick. Marco’s lifestyle is grey and lifeless.

Women come on to Marco and he has sex with some but it feels cold, unemotional and removed. An act so intimate is brought down to a level of something to do. Marco orders pole dancer twins (they bring their own collapsible poles – who knew?) Their dance feels long, tedious and absurd. Like the sex it is meaningless.

I was with somebody who had a hard time identifying with Marco. Good. No Prozac required. The ennui of a life filled with excess is a lot to bear – for some people. Does a good film mean one identifies with the character? No. Sometimes it is about the story of a character. Often characters are extremely flawed no matter their so-called privileges. Coppola often examines characters who challenge in some way, their lifestyle. Anyhow, I had empathy for Marco but I think that different people will bring alternate feelings to this character.

Sofia Coppola is well-known for directing films such as Marie Antoinette (2006), Lost in Translation(2003), The Virgin Suicides (1999). Her work is often the study of personality.  I think that she is a risk-taker. I usually like her work and find it refreshing. I see so many films and she stands out.

Coppola’s aesthetic confronts the tone and either it contrasts or matches it. The tension between the look and the mood is very interesting. I believe this is purposeful and well thought out. For example in Marie Antoinetteall is lush and confection-like in contrast to a background of bloodiness. In Somewhere there is something called ‘pathetic fallacy’ – the outside matches the feeling. This can be heady stuff. Or not.

I don’t want to reveal the ending…the film begins and ends on a road. At the beginning Marco is in his car and goes around in circles. The ending reveals a shift. That’s all I’ll say.

In the Orlando Sentinel, Roger Moore said Somewhere is a triumph of tedium, banality passing for depth, a vacuous embrace of nothing.

Oh, yeah.

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