Thursday, 16 December 2010

Somewhere (2010)

It’s neither here nor there.

Image: Universal International Pictures

When the trailer for Sofia Coppola’s latest hit the web it was almost too easy to point and call it a clone of her best-known and best film, Lost in Translation. Having seen Somewhere, it can be said that yes, it is rather similar, and no, it’s inevitably not as good.

Stephen Dorff (the villain from Blade) plays Johnny Marco, a successful Hollywood star who’s sequestered himself in the Chateau Marmont hotel in LA. He sleeps a lot, does publicity for a film, travels to Rome, drinks, smokes, and has sex with beautiful women. He hangs out with his daughter Cleo (Elle Fanning) when her mother disappears for a while.

There’s really not much of a plot going on here, which was to be expected. What is a disappointing surprise is Coppola’s determination to cover much of the same ground while showcasing her languorous, slow style. Somewhere is certainly a good looking film; the director’s eye is as strong as it’s ever been. But her insistence on lingering on absolutely everything, or just basically repeating it slows the film down to a snail’s pace.

Nobody’s coming to watch Somewhere expecting a fast-moving film, but it’s difficult to care when you’re given nothing by way of a reward for watching Johnny listlessly make his way through his days. Dorff is fine, and sometimes surprisingly very good, but it’s often a non-performance. He reaches his best with the arrival of Fanning, who is wonderful as his daughter.
But it’s only when they’re actually given things to do that the film threatens to stutter into life. It’s the small glances that are the most effective: Johnny marvelling at Cleo’s apparently new-found ice skating talent (she’s been doing it for years), and her silently scolding him for allowing a woman he’s slept with to intrude on their breakfast in Milan. These little glimpses into their family life give Somewhere a bit of momentum, but they’re few and far between. No big issues are resolved here. They’re barely even raised. The relationship between Johnny and Cleo also represents the only real reason to care at all about the actor. Hate texts and endless scenes of pointing out how alone he really is don’t manage to have an effect.

Somewhere is still somehow watchable, despite its many faults. At its best it’s a nicely observed look at a father-daughter relationship in a strange environment. At its worst it’s a self-indulgent, riff on Lost in Translation that even goes for a “Wait! The masseuse is a guy?” gag. I didn’t hate it, I didn’t love it. However, it suffers from a terrible ending and, more importantly, it’s the second film in two months to completely waste Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang’s Michelle Monaghan. Now that is unforgivable.

It’s missable and disappointing. While it’s probably very significant and meaningful to the director and actor, sometimes it works, but more often it doesn’t.



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