Review: Sofia Coppola’s New Film “Somewhere”
Sofia Coppola’s highly anticipated fourth feature film “Somewhere” is kind of like a Los Angeles love story, except not really at all. The love is between a father and his daughter (not like that, sicko) and Los Angeles plays the expansive and muted third main character, all blue skies and palm trees and strip malls. This film is much more “Lost In Translation” than it is “Marie Antoinette”, and Coppola uses her trademark brand of subtlety and mystery to tell the tale of an aging Hollywood actor, played deftly by Stephen Dorff (probably because he was sort of kind of a little playing himself in a way) who is floating untethered through his life of fame and fortune.
Marco lives at the Chateau Marmont, a haven for celebrities hiding from real lives, and the hotel itself plays a large role in the fim. The halls are peppered with supermodels and celebrities and the film is filled with cute cameos. Marco himself is often a prop at his own parties, mindlessly downing whiskey and popping pills while various strippers and other scantily clad women flitter in and out of his room like so much holiday snow. The only time he seems at all animated is when he is with his eleven year old daughter Cleo, played by the very talented Elle Fanning. When Cleo is essentially abandoned at the Chateau’s celebrated doorstep by her unstable mother who “needs some time” (for what or why, we have no idea, Coppola’s subtlety often tends to lead to complete dismissal of plot information), Marco spends more time with her than he seemingly ever has, and throughout the course of this time (spent partially in Milan while Marco receives an Italian award) we watch Marco’s hollowness fill a little, and her stay with him ultimately seems to both humanize him and wake him from his disconnected stupor. However, the film ends much as it began, with an open road and Marco and his Ferrari set against a vast California desert scene.
Los Angeles is the perfect location for a story of isolation, and Coppola’s genius really lays in forcing the viewer to feel what the character is feeling. Long shots of uniterrupted driving with nothing more than motor noises to mollify the ears make the viewer truly feel the LA-ness of constant car travel. In one particularly wonderful scene, we sit with Marco as he gets a mold made of his head for a film, a tedious and silent process through which we feel both the claustrophobia and boredom as well as the strange freedom of removal from the world. The head on shot of Marco coated in plaster, faceless and blank, is particularly beautiful.
As a lover of rom-coms, I would have liked just a wee bit more plot with my pictures (the dialogue alone could be fit onto a cocktail napkin) but the film was both beautiful and moving, and showcased the genius of Sofia Coppola.