Somewhere, the latest offering from director Sofia Coppola, tells the story of jaded Hollywood superstar Johnny Marco (Stephen Dorff). Stagnating and emotionally numb Marco continues to carry out the wild excesses of his celebrity lifestyle until his 11 year old daughter Cleo (Elle Fanning) arrives back in his life.
Somewhere marks the return of the director’s working relationship with Sarah Flack editor of Coppola’s most famous work Lost in Translation. Comparisons between the two movies are only natural as they share a number of similarities. Each film utilizes a naturalistic European style of cinema and explores similar themes; the lack of meaningful communication, loneliness and alienation inherent in modern society.
The film’s opening shot sees a black Ferrari roaring across a vast expanse of the Californian desert as Johnny Marco kills time in one of his millionaire toys. Somewhere is filled with long lingering shots of this nature which subtly allow the story of Marco’s malaise and reawakening to unfold. Early on we see Marco wearily observe two pole dancers as they give a private performance in his hotel room. Later when reunited with his daughter Johnny Marco watches on with tremendous pride at her accomplished ice-skating. This intimate style of filmmaking works extremely well as we feel we are watching an MTV style fly-on-the-wall documentary as superstar Johnny Marco travels from the palatial surroundings of the Chateau Marmont Hotel onto LA’s party scene or his latest film premier. The up-close style also has a more voyeuristic side as Marco repeatedly falls into bed with various Hollywood blondes. Cleo spends much of the movie scantily clad, (not that dissimilar from the models her father beds,) reminding us of the pressure there is on children, particularly girls, to prematurely enter adulthood and become sexualised before their time.
Elle Fanning’s skilful performance depicts the youngster at a difficult stage in her development poised, as she is, between the innocence of youth and adulthood. The scenes in which Cleo and her father share some quality time together are especially revealing as the precocious youngster and spoilt A-lister seem to meet in the middle when it comes to their levels of maturity. In one particular scene it is the adult Johnny who becomes engrossed in Guitar Hero rather than his young daughter. This is Johnny Marco’s main problem he is stuck in an extended period of adolescence having few responsibilities he is obliged to play the role of celebrity at the expense of being a loyal husband or father. In his only emotional outpouring Marco, caught up in a world of excess and indulgence, breaks down and admits that he doesn’t know who he is.
If Somewhere has a weakness it is the film’s lack of suspense or surprise. That being said the fact that the story is not dictated to us rather it slowly unfolds over the course of the film’s 97 minutes makes a refreshing change for a mainstream Hollywood movie. Whilst comparisons to Lost in Translation are always favourable, (the film lacks the ‘will-they-won’t-they?’ anticipation of that particular movie,) Somewhere does make some interesting observations on the pernicious nature of celebrity culture as the obsession with being a larger-than-life superstar threatens to erode personal identity and obscures the importance of meaningful relationships.
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