Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Film Review: Somewhere

Sofia Coppola's 4th feature film Somewhere is showing at the Michigan. It stars Stephen Dorff as megastar Johnny Marco (the dried up -- but not washed up – womanizer), and Elle Fanning as Cleo (his sweet, love deprived daughter).

It is clear when we meet Marco that he is near the end. For the first half of the film he searches in vain for friction in semblance: drugs, sex and sex. He is but a sheepish smile and pair of expressive eyes (usually covered by expensive sunglasses) that travel around a nondescript L.A. in a polished black Ferrari: He feels nothing, he is nothing (as he says later). There is mystery to him, but only the kind that makes him a good candidate for Sexiest Man Alive.

And while his struggle -- the film's subject -- is not about stardom, his plush life serves as a convenient canvass for Coppola to go to work. She does, and in a way that puts all of her (limited) talents on display.

There is no denying that Coppola understands and executes certain techniques for good filmmaking. Admittedly, I have a soft-spot for the way she tells stories: image by image, the narrative slowly unfurls, all the time allowing the part tell a story of its own. This with the cinematography is pleasurable in itself.

Mustn't there be more?

Coppola thinks so, hence Cleo. Cleo is eleven; she is a figure skater; she is going to camp; she is adorable playing domestic; she wants to love her father. She is supposed to provide the needed friction for Marco's life. Despite Elle Fanning’s effortless performance, she too becomes absorbed into the image.

So, Coppola and her subject (Marco) have a common struggle – the allure and pacifying effect of semblance. In the end, it is the very effort to give Marco’s life the body and meaning it lacks, which deprives the film of its own.

I was left not caring any more about Marco, his daughter, or the film's loudly announce achievement, and no music induced catharsis -- however , Coppolaesque it is -- could change this.

So, my advice is to watch the trailer. It is really good.


  1. The trailer wars rage on.

    Funny how she again takes on the relationship between a man and a girl a generation apart. Even "The Virgin Suicides" played between the youthful girls and the narrator, presumably older now, remembering their deaths. I loved "The Virgin Suicides," but I'm growing tired of the dynamic.

  2. I liked it but I always think her movies are lovely to look at. When I saw it in NYC over winter break my friend turned to me when the credits read "Written and Directed by Sofia Coppola". "That movie had a *script*?!" she said: I couldn't argue with that charge.

    This poster is pretty though: