Review: "Somewhere"

by Todd McCarthy
September 4, 2010 6:33 AM
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On the evidence provided in "Somewhere," the room to book at the Chateau Marmont is 59, which comes with blond pole-dancing twins. Then again, maybe you have to be a rich, good-looking movie star to merit such treatment, and the focus on undeserved privilege is one of the few points of real interest in Sofia Coppola's first feature since "Marie Antoinette." This junior league Antonioniesque study of dislocation and aimlessness is attractive but parched in the manner of its dominant Los Angeles setting, and it's a toss-up as to whether the film is about vacuity or is simply vacuous itself.

Never giving but always willing to receive, Johnny Marco (Stephen Dorff) is a scruffy, minimally articulate actor with a sleek black Ferrari and very messy personal habits. From the way hot babes throw themselves at him and people in general kowtow to him, you'd think he was Johnny Depp, but from what little we see, his career is closer to that of Dorff himself, who here gets a rare lead role under a name director but doesn't infuse it with much charisma or sense of occasion.

Johnny generally wakes up hung over, gets a call from an assistant telling him what's on for the day and gets laid without lifting a finger. In no way is he an engaging guy who merits attention or respect, although his rarified lifestyle as seen through the hazy gaze of Coppola's and cinematographer Harris Savides's camera provides a measure of bemused distraction.

The one aspect of Johnny's life that should keep him honest is his 11-year-old daughter Clio (Elle Fannning), whose mom increasingly dumps her with her dissolute ex. An ice skater, a cook and in all ways more together than her dad, Clio is nonetheless still a kid who could use a father able to actually talk to her rather than tote her from hotel to hotel, no matter that one of them is the most luxurious one in Milan, where Johnny gets feted on TV for his allegedly sparkling career.

The analytically-minded or perhaps just the gossips may speculate on the extent to which the neglected daughter angle reflects negatively on the writer-director's own childhood as the daughter of a globe-trotting celebrity filmmaker. Autobiographical or not, the film might have been much more interesting had it taken the child's point of view on rampant adult immaturity rather than adopting the more familiar and less revealing cool hipster stance.

How unmerited Johnny's success and sense of entitlement may be is emphasized by his admissions that he never really studied acting and scarcely works out physically. The moment that should be haunting but tellingly is not shows Johnny being made up to look like an old man, a transformation that should give pause to a poseur who's gotten by in life on his alleged allure. The question for Johnny is implicitly the same as the one posed by The Eagles's famous song--he can check out of the Chateau anytime he wants, but can he ever leave? In this fuzzy, emotionally stunted film, it's very hard to tell.

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  • Belinda Doyle | December 14, 2010 11:34 AMReply

    Totally wrong.
    Ok, 'Somewhere' is not as utterly brilliant as 'Lost in Translation' and is not easily accessible, but the fact that the guy is rich and famous is totally unimportant, it could have been anybody, it's the relationship with his daughter that matters. Simon Miraudo's review is much more on the pulse:
    "The movie is light on plot and free of conflict, but their inclusion would seem false. Somewhere offers us something far rarer and greater: a glimpse at an honest-to-goodness relationship. As father and daughter, Stephen Dorff and the luminous Elle Fanning build a true bond, the likes of which are captured on film as often as Bigfoot sightings. The ‘plot’ is their entire life; the ‘conflict’ is their entire relationship. Coppola and her fine cast give us a subtle taste of these characters’ existence, and share with us at the moments they’ll cherish forever."

  • Guido | November 20, 2010 6:22 AMReply

    A truly awful and empty film giving new meaning to the phrase "Is that all there is?" TM's review is too kind. The opening moments of the film are a tip-off that Somewhere is going nowhere, as we watch a sleek Ferrari aimlessly doing tedious laps, going nowhere, albeit in style.

    A Golden Lion winner for Best film?! No surprise the rich and privileged jury would validate a lifestyle they know intimately. But what about the paying audience who will be subjected to this self-indulgent exercise in vacuity? Ms. Coppola might consider living in the real world for a spell, where real people engage real conflicts and don't expect a round of applause for getting out of bed in the morning.

  • deborah wallace | November 20, 2010 4:56 AMReply

    doesn’t she know the word “cut?” must every scene be, or feel like, ten minutes long? does she have to finish an entire song in every scene? with or without twin strippers?
    i for one, hated lost in translation — felt i was being manipulated, and without her father’s influence, no one would have ever seen it (much less get the film shot)
    this film was tedious, endless, pointless, and, simply just “ended” with no resolution, thank god i did not have to pay to see it, or i would have written a less-than-stellar review.

  • Peter Brandt Nielsen | November 1, 2010 12:37 PMReply

    The review is fair enough, but no charisma? Really? And just because a man's life does not command respect, does that mean that it isn't worthy of inspection?

  • Richard Crawford | September 7, 2010 4:16 AMReply

    i suspect, in fact i KNOW you are wrong again.