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Somewhere (2010) ***1/2

January 6, 2011


Written by: Sofia Coppola

Produced by: Roman Coppola, Sofia Coppola, G. Mac Brown, and Jordan Stone

Directed by: Sofia Coppola

Rated R for sexual content, nudity, and language

97 min.

U.S. Release Date: December 22, 2010 (limited)


The Oscar-nominated writer-director and daughter of filmmaking-legend Francis Ford Coppola, Sofia Coppola, returns from a four-year filmmaking hiatus with a slow-moving indie dramedy called Somewhere.  In this film, Stephen Dorff plays Johnny Marco, a Hollywood bad boy actor who is in between projects and living in the iconic Chateau Marmont hotel in Hollywood.  His life is turned upside down when he is visited by his daughter and he realizes that he hasn’t been around for her the way she needs.  This revelation is unveiled to Johnny through a series of drawn out and slow-moving scenes constructed by Coppola, a similar filmmaking style to which she has been known to employ in the past.  Is Somewhere the film to finally deliver Coppola’s style to the masses, or will her seemingly bland filmmaking methods fall on deaf ears once again?

 

 

 

Hollywood actor Johnny Marco (Stephen Dorff) is a man who lives solely based on his impulses.  He regularly drinks, parties, and sleeps with random women on a moment’s notice.  All these things keep Johnny’s boredom under wraps while he moves from one acting job to the next.  Marco is the father of a young girl named Cleo (Elle Fanning), who bounces between parents on occasion.  One day, Cleo’s mother abruptly drops her off and leaves town, and Johnny allows Cleo to tag along during his press tour for an upcoming film, but can he manage to fit his 11-year-old daughter into his selfish lifestyle?

 

First of all, to answer the posed question from the beginning of this review, Somewhere is probably not the film to expose Sofia Coppola to broad North American audiences.  The film is very slowly paced, featuring limited dialogue (probably the least amount of dialogue in any of Coppola’s films), very long takes, and almost no musical score.  That being said, Coppola manages to extract charm out of a film that showcases mostly selfish and destructive behavior.  Johnny Marco is an impulsive playboy who lacks any redeeming qualities however, when connected with his daughter, can show a much warmer and kind side.

 

 

The acting performances in Somewhere are quite fantastic, especially considering the extremely long and drawn-out takes that the director utilizes.  There are scenes where Dorff just sits on a couch in his character’s apartment and smokes in front of the camera for five or six minutes.  All of the acting is done with his facial expressions and body language.  At first, this silence is unsettling for audiences, but very quickly, viewers will get drawn into the character and be put in the mind of the character, which proves to be a very effective style of filmmaking.

 

Though Coppola does not necessarily gift wrap the ending of this film, it is probably her most “Hollywood-style ending”, which is slightly disappointing if you are familiar with and enjoy Coppola’s previous films.  Her style of leaving her endings open allows the viewer to connect with the character more because they have to get in the character’s head to extrapolate what ended up happening after the frame fades to black.  That effect remains in Somewhere, but there is a lot more of the plot spelled out for you, which leaves less to be imagined by the viewer.

 

 

Overall, if you are a fan of Sofia Coppola’s previous works, or you like films that are deep character studies or “snapshots in time”, then you’ll really love Somewhere.  This film tells the story of a man set in his ways, but is caught off-guard by real feelings of love that can only be felt by a parent.  Somewhere is a fresh take on the cinematic parent-child relationship that should warm your heart if you have one.  If it’s playing anywhere near you, you should definitely see this film and enjoy the work of a filmmaker that doesn’t bend to all the mainstream conventions of Hollywood filmmaking, and one who really knows how to tell a story while conveying realism and symbolism at the same time.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. January 9, 2011 10:53 pm

    Hi Paul,
    I like Coppola’s earlier work (Virgin Suicides, Lost in Translation) but couldn’t get into this. Somewhere felt like Sofia treading water, copying earlier themes and going heavy on the art and light on story and character.
    Here are my thoughts: http://postprojection.wordpress.com/2011/01/09/somewhere-familiar/

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