Somewhere (2010)

Review #1,642

Director:  Sofia Coppola
Cast:  Stephen Dorff, Elle Fanning
Plot:  After withdrawing to the Chateau Marmont, a passionless Hollywood actor reexamines his life when his eleven-year-old daughter surprises him with a visit.

Genre:  Drama
Awards:  Won Golden Lion (Venice)
Runtime:  97 mins
Rating:  NC16 (passed clean) for sexual content, nudity and language
Distributor:  Focus Features

“Why are you taking a bath next door?  Is yours broken?”

I don’t think a film like Somewhere should have won such a huge prize like the Venice Golden Lion—it is not even a great work by any measure, and it is certainly not one of Sofia Coppola’s finest hours in my opinion.  That being said, it is a return to a more low-key style that is reminiscent of Lost in Translation (2003), and perhaps because Coppola managed to imbue Somewhere with an odd, quiet charm that the picture somehow grew on people.  And this was what Quentin Tarantino who presided over the jury that year claimed as well, shutting the conspiracy theorists who alleged favouritism toward Coppola, whom he previously shared a romantic relationship with.  

Whichever the case, I agree that the film is oddly charming in its treatment of the father-daughter relationship, though it doesn’t quite break any new ground, nor does it seem to care to want to do so.  Johnny Marco (Stephen Dorff) is a Hollywood actor who isn’t exactly an A-lister, but popular enough to attract throngs of fans.  Amid a withdrawn lifestyle of alcoholism, sex and drugs (a reaction to his hectic celebrity schedule), he is forced to re-examine his life when his young daughter Cleo (a terrific Elle Fanning who was only 12 at that time) pays him a surprise visit at the famous Chateau Marmont where he is staying.  

Like Johnny in bed trying to be entertained by a pair of pole dancers whom he had hired, Somewhere also channels a similar spirit in that it is comfortable with its material and tone, but it doesn’t come across as particularly striking.  Gentle and slight, the finest aspect of the film comes from Coppola’s ability to bring the nuances of human emotions to the fore.  

Dorff’s portrayal of Johnny isn’t as emotive as Fanning’s work with Cleo, and perhaps it is this contrast that the intricacies of the father-daughter relationship become more apparent.  Whilst the drama is subtle and nothing much seems to be happening, there appears to be something going on more deeply inside the characters, especially Johnny.  Maybe that’s another reason why some viewers are drawn to the enigmatic qualities of the film.

Verdict:  A gentle if slight film from Sofia Coppola that sees her going for a low-key character study of a burned-out Hollywood actor.





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