Sofia Coppola returns to hotels and movie stars in a story about isolation and identity.
Sofia Coppola returns to hotels and movie stars in a
story about isolation and identity.
It is not
surprising, given the reception to her last film Marie Antoinette (2006) and her penchant for hotels, that Sofia Coppola would return to Lost In Translation (2003) territory
for her latest film. Like that film Somewhere is a slice of life look at a man
who is always surrounded by people and yet feels utterly alone in his
Johnny Marco (Dorff) is an A-list Hollywood actor
living in the famous Chateau Marmont on Sunset Boulevard. Whiling away his days
by sleeping with various women and living the ‘rock-star’ life style sees Marco
do little else other than tread water. However, when his young daughter Cleo (Fanning) comes to stay he finds solace
in her company.
Like her earlier
works Somewhere is thin on plot but big on projecting the audience into the
mind-set of the characters. The film flits through various scenarios creating
an evocative tone rather than a coherent narrative. Essentially Marco is
desperately isolated in his stardom. This is conveyed with a wonderful sense of
irony and whit that permeates throughout everything within the film. In one
instance it is highlighted by his young daughter explaining the premise behind
Twilight in such a way you could only break down for a parent.
execution is intentionally lethargic so as to convey the banality of Marco’s
life. The opening five minutes sees Marco driving his car round a circular track
over and over again. That this image is bookended by the closing of him walking
away from the vehicle on an open road leaves little to interpretation. Add to
this a moment in which Marco is caked in plaster for a prosthetic ‘old man’
mask, not allowing him to see or hear his surroundings, and you become part of
his secluded world.
Key to conveying
these ideas is keeping the audience interested and it is here that Somewhere
struggles. A scene in which Marco watches two amateur strippers in his room and
falls asleep to their performance raises a wry smile but it goes on too long
and labours the point. As such Somewhere too often feels self-indulgent and
something of an in-joke for Hollywood insiders. Indeed you begin to wonder how
much of the film is biographical given Coppola’s upbringing within the Los
Somewhere does pull you in thanks to the two central performances. Elle
Fanning, young sister of Dakota, shows she certainly has the talent to match
her elder sibling. It would be easy for Cleo to fall into the category of ‘wise
beyond her years’ cliché, but despite her observant ways there is always a
childlike innocence and vulnerability to her performance. Dorff has, for too
long now, been cast as the eye-brow raising villain thanks to his turn in Blade (1998) some ten years ago. Here
he brings a hangdog expression combined with a wide-eyed gaze that echoes his naivety,
which is in stark contrast to his onscreen daughter. Together the two gently
lull you into their hearts and headspace.
In many ways a
re-tread of Lost In Translation Somewhere often feels like it is going Nowhere
new. However, it pulls you in emotionally and certainly portrays the pitfalls
of fame and success as coming at a very steep price.