Film Review: Sofia Coppola’s Lyrical ‘Somewhere’ Nearly Finds Meaning in Nothing

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CHICAGO – Sofia Coppola’s “Somewhere” is her most lyrical film, a work that feels not unlike Gus Van Sant’s “Last Days” or “Elephant” in its liberal use of long takes, huge gaps in dialogue, and real-time scenes that seem to go nowhere. It is a minimalist mood piece and that mood is the melancholy that comes with the realization that you’ve accomplished very little of real significance and your daily routine is nothing more than varying cycles of self-fulfillment. Oscarman rating: 4.0/5.0
Rating: 4.0/5.0

The film opens with an actor brilliantly-named Johnny Marco (Stephen Dorff) driving around in circles on a track — the metaphor for his life and the way it’s book-ended by the final shots is impossible to miss. Shortly after that open, he falls down the stairs and injures himself. Bed-ridden in the Chateau Marmont, he does next to nothing with his days, drinking, hiring pole dancers, drinking some more, smoking, and drinking some more. The only breaks in his life of lavish tedium come courtesy of his lovely daughter Cleo (Elle Fanning), who visits him and seems to be something of a reminder to him that the rest of his life is totally vacuous.

StarRead Brian Tallerico’s full review of “Somewhere” in our reviews section.

The description above might leave the false impression that “Somewhere” is about a partying movie star (and on some level it is) but Coppola has not glamorized the life of the spoiled celebrity in any way. This is not a movie about the “fun” or even the dangers of a life where everything is handed to you on a silver platter. It is about the monotony of a life without much concern; one in which choice of groupie for the night is often the toughest of the day. And yet it is also not a condemnation of the spoiled celebrity either. Coppola isn’t making a broad statement about the pitfalls of fame, merely presenting a period of life for a man approaching or in middle-age who realizes that his days are somewhat devoid of typical human behavior. To use the title, he’s not really anywhere.

While there are more than enough elements of “Somewhere” to like, it is ultimately a bit too shallow for its own good. And I don’t mean the word the way it’s usually thrown around. This is not surface-level narcissism and the film should be praised for avoiding what it could have been, but Coppola stretches minimalism to the point where I’m not sure she really does anything at all. “Somewhere” features a number of strong alternative genre music choices, many of which are heard in their entirety, and it’s somewhat fascinating to look at the film in light of her others (“Lost in Translation” also took part almost entirely in a hotel and was also about being disconnected while the Chateau Marmont is as close to a castle out of “Marie Antoinette” as one is going to find in the States), but Coppola pushes the “blank slate” concept a bit too far, going for Antonioni or, more recently, Van Sant, but just barely missing the way those filmmakers found dramatic resonance in minimalism.

StarContinue reading for Brian Tallerico’s full “Somewhere” review.

“Somewhere” stars Stephen Dorff and Elle Fanning. It was written and directed by Sofia Coppola. It was released in Chicago on December 22nd, 2010. It is rated R and runs 98 minutes.

Photo credit: Focus Features

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