Sunday, 12 December 2010

Review: Somwhere

Year: 2010
Director: Sophia Coppola
Screenplay: Sophia Coppola
Starring: Stephen Dorff, Elly Fanning, Chris Pointius

Synopsis is here

Somewhere has Stephen Dorff playing an actor broken both physically and mentally. After breaking his wrist in a drunken stumble we find him posing for marketing pictures with his female lead who detests him for his womanizing and partying with his equally immature friends. It's clear from the drinks, hotels and poledancing hotties that this man can pretty much do what he wants, and yet he is incredibly empty inside. We really shouldn't give a damn about a guy like this because he is living the life that we pay to read in those risible celeb rags. However, while it takes a bit to get there, Sophia Coppola manages draw out a certain amount of worth empathy for someone that we really shouldn't like.

Somewhere comes off like a prologue to Lost in Translation with Stephen Dorff's Johnny Marco heading towards the same stages of loneliness that Bill Murray's Bob had in Coppola's Award winning second feature. Marco despite being so popular lives in a life as fractured as his wrist. He gets anonymous texts which spit venom at him, his work life is a blurry haze of flashing lights and portentous questions from foreign journos. Coppola coming from such a life captures this bizarre other world with accuracy that only someone like herself could bring about. Many scenes brilliantly send up how artificial everything has become to Marco, so much so that he can only sit there and take it each day at a time..if he can remember which day it is. Highlights of this include a scene where Marco and his daughter Cleo in an Italian hotel; sit down to watch Friends in countries language.  Neither know the language but it's familiarly gives the comfort. Another scene involves Marco sitting in a plaster cast to get a mold of his face. When the cast is taken off to reveal a mold of Marco as an aged man, his reaction is a Keanu like "whoa!" suggesting that only now he's released that one day his looks will fade. The scene also plays with the idea that Marco is masked and it'll only be at the end of his life he'll release that he's done nothing. Such moments are simple, but effective. Often they hit the mark a become quite touching.

This is all said without the main reason why we get behind Johnny Marco: his 11 year old daughter Cleo. A neatly level headed performance by Elly Fanning (counterbalancing the  Dorff's laid back near adolescent behavior) is one that reminds us of her older sister Dakota. Wise beyond her years but enough childhood nativity and concern to give the movie restrained emotion the film needs. Two wonderfully telling moments include Fanning's Cleo joking with both her father and his friend Sammy and a quietly awkward "fake family" moment involving a disproving Cleo, Marco himself and one of his conquests. Scenes like this also show that Somewhere isn't without humor with scenes often being funnier than they should be.

Somewhere isn't without it's flaws. At first Coppola utilizes early scenes well to mark the frustration of the character and we too absorb the idea that the easy life is hard when the perks are repeated and money is no object. The problem is that Coppola draws out a few of these scenes too long for their own good and while  they wish to be lyrical, they end up being more of an annoyance. It doesn't help that the film feels like it could have ended three times before it actually does. Others have stated a lack of character development within the film, which has an element of truth but also shows Coppola taking something that could have been quite saccharine and taking away the easy answers.

Somewhere has a wry eye on celebrity isolation and manages to crave out a subtly touching tale about someone we wouldn't like in real life losing touch with his own reality. We may not like to hear it but sometimes it's hard having the easy life.