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.

Review: The Tourist

Year: 2010
Director: Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck
Screenplay: Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck, Christopher McQuarrie
Starring: Angelina Jolie, Johnny Depp

Synopsis is here.

As with many films these days; The Tourist is of course a remake, but as most people haven't even heard of the original film, it manages to get away with all that nasty outrage that a Let me in gets. I find this to be a little unfortunate as this film with it's popular stars and gloss will get less of a drubbing than some of it's more known retreads. I guess it's because I wish for a just world in where if someone is going to bitch at America for it's lack of ideas, I hope they do the research on all the films going and rightly lambaste all the movies and not just the ones they know about and like. They should also remember it goes both ways, and they should really check out some Turkish features. Quite simply, imitation is the most sincere form of flattery.

Shame I found The Tourist to be a bore.

Despite a wealth of writing, acting and directing* talent, much like an adolescent relationship making love for the second time; the whole situation leaves you frustrated and strangely unsatisfied. That's not the best visual metaphor I've used for describing a movie, however if what I said made you crack even the slightest grin then you had more fun then, than I did in the entirety of this movie. It's not for lack of trying as it's clear that Angelina Jolie is using all her feminine charms to give the film some kind of allure, while Johnny Depp does that lower end Depp act he does when he's not bringing out his best work and together it should work.

However, it's hard for them as they are fighting a pointless story. It's bad enough that the direction isn't strong enough to distract me from the naff plot points and the clear Deus Ex Machina moments (Poor Timothy Dalton), but the simple fact that the reasons behind the films whole narrative are so weak makes the whole thing an incredible waste of time. I found myself asking, is that really why we're going round the houses?  It almost makes the shenanigans in Knight and Day seem straightforward and level-headed.

Can the chemistry between main performers take my mind off all of this? Can it fuck. You don't believe in their relationship for one second, mostly because Depp is hilariously miscast. Depp could take many peoples girlfriends away with a wink, so you'd think the film would do it's best to make him the schlub that they wish us to believe. It seems the reaction to that thought is? Why bother? This is a film that just wants two good looking people in exotic places on screen, who needs chemistry to give the make shift story at least feel like it had a chance?

If there is any good points about then film, I will say that the speedboat set piece does what it can to give the illusion of fun and some of the dialogue exchanges aren't bad for what they are. But really, is that all I can take from this movie? Unfortunately yes.

This is for purists only. Fans of the leads who can talk at length about how great Secret Window is, or quote you the entire script of Life or something like it. To others, they may find it more substantial to rewatch the Bourne trilogy again.