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Venice Early Review: Sofia Coppola's Somewhere Views Empty Movie Star

by Anne Thompson
September 3, 2010 1:02 AM
11 Comments
  • |
Thompson on Hollywood

Write what you know. And Sofia Coppola knows Hollywood.

The last time I interviewed the writer-director, for Lost in Translation, we talked in the lobby of the Chateau Marmont, which plays a major role in her new movie, Somewhere, which world-premieres in Venice Friday night, its only fall-fest showing before Focus Features opens the film on December 24. (Paris-based Coppola just gave birth to her second child.) Coppola returns to the Venice Fest, which kicked off her most successful film to date, 2003's Lost in Translation, which won the Lina Mangiacapre award. The very European Somewhere is a good fit here; the Italian journos at the morning press screening got a kick out of an amusing sequence when bored movie star Johnny Marco (well-played by Stephen Dorff) flies his willowy 11-year-old daughter Cleo (Elle Fanning) to a movie opening in Milan, where he orders them gelato in bed in their lavish suite at the Principe-Savoie Hotel--with its own indoor pool.

At the packed Venice press conference during a driving rain storm Friday, Coppola answered questions in her signature low-key, terse way. Coppola is an intuitive, visual filmmaker who uses words judiciously and sound expressively. In her films, a glance or a sharp intake of breath reveal more than any dialogue.

Coppola, 39, returns to writing her own material here, as she did with her much-lauded second film, Lost in Translation, starring Scarlett Johansson and Bill Murray, which scored screenwriting awards from the Golden Globes and the Oscars, not to mention Coppola's distinction as only the third woman (and the first American woman) to ever nab a best director Oscar nomination. How to top that?

Inevitably, Coppola followed up with a let-down at Sony, the $40-million, visually delectable costume-biopic Marie Antoinette, which earned mixed reviews and $16 million domestically; it totaled $61 million worldwide.

Coppola retreads familiar territory with Somewhere, which is a smaller-scale companion piece to Antoinette and Lost in Translation: Marco is yet another wealthy, pampered and sequestered celebrity who is trapped and bored. Languidly paced with many long static shots, Somewhere is a precisely-observed, often silent portrait of a depressed movie star who sits and stares blankly at the wall, beer and meds at hand, when his publicist or manager isn't telling him where to go or what to do. Marco knows how to be a movie star, he just doesn't know how to live a life. Women constantly offer themselves to him; a barrage of angry text messages tell him what a jerk he is.

The movie opens with Marco driving fast on a race track in his black Ferrari, round and round. He's utterly empty. On the night of his birthday, he falls down drunk on the hotel stairs and winds up with his wrist in a cast. "I do my own stunts," he lamely tells his ex-wife when she drops off Clio. He falls asleep when blonde nubile twins pole-dance for him in his room. But he is captivated by his innocent daughter's graceful pirhouettes on ice skates.

When his ex-wife dumps Cleo on him for a week, Marco comes to life. The Chateau Marmont staff caters and pampers him; Cleo can call room service at the Marmont to get anything she wants, like groceries for his kitchen to cook him a meal. He loves playing fantasy dad: he plays cards and Guitar Hero with her, takes her to Milan, and en route to summer camp, hires a helicopter to play craps in Vegas. What happens after she leaves is key. Significantly, we feel for this guy, who could be utterly obnoxious, but is in a lot of pain. He's a recent movie star, still adjusting, Dorff said at the press conference; the actor admits to understanding Marco's isolation away from a movie set. These are breakthrough roles for both Dorff and Fanning.

Witty, spare and gorgeously framed, Somewhere should play well for the young smart-house set.

11 Comments

  • rarely entertained | April 12, 2011 11:11 AMReply

    This, in my opinion, was a subtle and beautiful movie. In its ability to convey the loneliness of its protagonist through gesture and action, it reminded me of a great short story - a Joyce or a Checkov.

  • nina | January 9, 2011 6:58 AMReply

    i think people are too occupied with the notion of wanting to be "entertained" when watching a movie - which, of course, is very much valid. but sofia coppola's films ask something of the audience - just as much as she gives to you. its very much a different taste. her films asks you to be patient and observant. in this case, the silent moments of loneliness and thought. the comparative cooking scenes of cleo and johnny were simply beautiful. a girl of eleven can make eggs benedict but a man of thirty-seven over estimates how much pasta he can eat? i love the little moments of humour as well. chris pontius was a great contrast! alcoholic ballet teacher?

  • Denise Anne | December 30, 2010 6:07 AMReply

    This is the most boring movie I have ever seen in my life. It looks like neither the director nor the crew was even remotely interested in shooting this movie. I have a strong feeling they just left the camera rolling and went about doing other things (probably shopping for groceries or playing cards in the back room) while Stephen Dorff just sat in a couch for 30 minutes and then played video games for another 30 while sipping on one beer throughout.
    Apparently shooting a car being driven down a road from different angles makes a movie Oscar worthy. (Blech!) Let's not even talk about his moment of metamorphosis. I couldn't for the life of me tell whether he was laughing or crying. Very nicely done really. The climax of the movie and you have to ask the person next to you whether the character is laughing (maybe because he looked stoned almost throughout the movie) or crying, it's surprising he can because he's practically devoid of any display of emotion through this 98 minute attempt at a movie. He couldn't possibly have looked more bored while watching the twins swivel about on the poles erotically. I think the twins were probably the only two people in the movie who actually were interested in shooting this film.
    All in all, I was short of sticking a fork in my eye! Maybe I should've, at least that would've been more entertaining.

  • Denise Anne | December 30, 2010 6:06 AMReply

    This is the most boring movie I have ever seen in my life. It looks like neither the director nor the crew was even remotely interested in shooting this movie. I have a strong feeling they just left the camera rolling and went about doing other things (probably shopping for groceries or playing cards in the back room) while Stephen Dorff just sat in a couch for 30 minutes and then played video games for another 30 while sipping on one beer throughout.
    Apparently shooting a car being driven down a road from different angles makes a movie Oscar worthy. (Blech!) Let's not even talk about his moment of metamorphosis. I couldn't for the life of me tell whether he was laughing or crying. Very nicely done really. The climax of the movie and you have to ask the person next to you whether the character is laughing (maybe because he looked stoned almost throughout the movie) or crying, it's surprising he can because he's practically devoid of any display of emotion through this 98 minute attempt at a movie. He couldn't possibly have looked more bored while watching the twins swivel about on the poles erotically. I think the twins were probably the only two people in the movie who actually were interested in shooting this film.
    All in all, I was short of sticking a fork in my eye! Maybe I should've, at least that would've been more entertaining.

  • Twohoursback | November 29, 2010 4:36 AMReply

    Somewhere is one of the worst movies I have ever seen. It is a screener on my bookshelf. It is called "Somewhere." "Entourage" with no wit or laughs, terrible, barely drawn characters...like watching paint dry.

  • Frances Copulate | November 28, 2010 6:33 AMReply

    Wow. Just saw a screener. Can I please have the last two hours back. Somewhere is a self-indulgent, pointless, vapid, listless, reduntant, and just plain awful film.
    Appreciated Lost in Translation. Sofia took ten steps back with this one.

  • joseph stiller | November 22, 2010 5:27 AMReply

    Shallow doesn't even begin to describe this movie. It is beyond tedious. If you have trouble sleeping this movie is for you. You have to hand to Coppola, though, with this one she rises to new levels of pretension (which I didn't think was possible after Marie Antoinette)

  • Serge | September 5, 2010 2:13 AMReply

    S.J. is stolen biological material, taken against will and formed to clones line 200 pieces total. DANGEROUS, DANGEROUS, sign of dangerous criminal activity. Original Scarlett Galabekian future pediatrician doctor, pediatrician nurse license she obtained in 2008.

  • Film Fan | September 3, 2010 12:14 PMReply

    Can't wait to see this. I have loved all of Sofia's films. Including "Marie Antoinette". What a gorgeous movie. I hope that comes out on Blu Ray one day.

  • Patrick | September 3, 2010 11:00 AMReply

    How rude of you, Mike. I quite enjoyed Ms. Thompson's write-up. Stephen Dorff has always been one of my favorites since I saw him in Blade...I've been wondering when someone might shine the spotlight on him so affectionately.

  • Mike | September 3, 2010 6:40 AMReply

    If this is the level of journalism required to write for this website, can I have a job? Because I write a million times better than this.

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