Somewhere (2011)

Written & Directed by Sophia Coppola

Sophia Coppola was skyrocketed to fame as a filmmaker with her outstanding film Lost in Translation, which came out in 2003 and earned four Oscar nods, netting Sophia a win in the writing category. Stepping out of her father’s shadow, Sophia proved to be a very promising writer/director. So here is her latest effort, the sparse drama that is Somewhere. And I do think sparse is the best possible way to describe the film.

The story is that of Johnny Marco (Stephen Dorff), who is a big time Hollywood action star who seems to have everything, and nothing, at the same time. He spends his time partying, having sex with numerous women, drinking, and smoking. He is quite the pathetic character. There is no reason for him to be liked, by anyone. Yet there she is, his daughter, Cleo (Elle Fanning), who walks into his life once more when her mother disappears for an undetermined amount of time. Now it is up to Johnny to stop his womanizing, his partying, his immatureness and be the parent that Cleo needs. And surprisingly, he does it quite well.

My first reaction to the film when I first walked out of the theater was, “Snoozefest.” This is a very minimal film. With a runtime at 97 minutes it is not very long, but because Coppola lingers on moments of nothingness and there is very little plot progression, it feels much longer. One thing I did appreciate right away was the acting. I felt like Stephen Dorff was fairly well cast as the loser movie star with everything. His delivery matches the style of the film: minimal and somewhat emotionless, but that is his character. Elle Fanning was very natural in her role as the daughter, Cleo. She doesn’t do anything special, but acts her age and does it convincingly.

When I thought about what I would say when I wrote this review I thought I might really like to be very mean and angry at this film for wasting my time as it was not something I thought was worth anything, but as I slept on it and let it breath I think I will refuse to do that. While it is no where near the magic created in Lost in Translation, Somewhere tackles some interesting themes and does so in pondering way. It is not something I think would improve with multiple viewings and not something I would ever like to revisit, but I don’t think it really is as atrocious as my initial reaction led me to believe.

Adam Kuhn

Adam Kuhn was born and raised in Columbus, Ohio, where he attended Saint Charles Preparatory School. He studied History at the University of Cincinnati, where he was a contributor of The News Record, the twice-weekly, independent student news organization. He has been writing film reviews and blogging since 2009.

2 comments

  • Nice thoughts, I do hope that you give the film another chance again. It's not the best film of 2010, maybe not even my favorite, but it's the film I just want to keep watching. Seen it twice already and I think it improved on that second viewing because I was more prepared for what Sophia was going for.

    I've mentioned this before, in places I think, that the film is very feminine in its construction. There are miniclimaxes that build toward a realization and awakening, which I think is mighty beautiful. Sometimes the camera does linger, but it seems to work well to establish Johnny's place in the world at that time.

    A common complaint I have read, not so much here, is that the film lacks subtext, and this is something I wrestle with constantly. It is very surface I guess, it really does just detail a man and his daughter as he becomes a better father, but I think below that we have the idea of what happens when you live a life scripted, and it seems that we see all these slow builds that lead to the film's conclusion.

    Also I think there is a maturity in Elle's performance that does elevate it beyond a simple portrayal of a 12 year old. She does not have that many 'big' scenes, but the scene at the table in Italy in the morning, the dynamic between her and the older men. She communicates a sense of strength, I think, and she remains mesmerizing throughout the film.

    I'm glad to hear that it has sat better than when you first saw it though, I just wish that you could have enjoyed it a bit more. Have you seen any of Sophia's other films besides LiT?

    Like

  • Hi Corndog,

    I saw the film a few weeks ago and not surprisingly, being a Sofia-fanboy, it's my favorite film of the year. Still, I knew the film would irk a lot of people. Especially in its approach which was definitely 1960s-Italian cinema ala Antonioni.

    It's a film that is still running through my head and that happens after I see a film of hers for the first time. I'm hoping to see it again when it comes out on DVD. I pretty much went to see Somewhere with very low expectations because I admit, the plot on paper isn't great at all.

    Yet, I think she is becoming more and more confident as a director not just in creating subtle compositions but also make something that is similar to a silent film of sorts. While she admits that a lot of her favorite films are purely American (with the exception of Breathless). She's definitely a European director.

    Here's my review. I'm sure I can help people out on what the fuck they just saw. I try to be as simple as I can. I know it's not everyone's cup of tea. Still, I think Sofia is refining her work as a director.

    Excellent review by the way.

    Like

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