Sunday, 12 December 2010


Universal Pictures
Now Showing

Despite the frustrating opening sequences, which could best be described as episodic inertia, Sofia Coppola's Somewhere gradually draws you in. Not that the episodic nature abates – this is a virtually plot-free film – but because its protagonist, Hollywood actor Johnny Marco (Stephen Dorff), livens up.

That's around the time his daughter Cleo (Elle Fanning, sister of Dakota) arrives to stay with him at his "home", L.A.'s Chateau Marmont Hotel. Elle's mother (presumably Johnny's ex) needs to get away and she posits the muppet-sized but surprisingly capable 11-year-old with her dad. Plot-wise that's about it. Father and daughter hanging by the hotel pool, a brief trip to Milan to promote his latest film and ordering midnight snacks of gelato via room service, computer games, shopping, and eventually a road trip, to deliver Cleo to summer camp.

But Coppola's film is also a study in the emptiness of fame and celebrity. Johnny lives in a hotel, hosting parties in his room most nights with guests he doesn't appear to know, and having sexual encounters with random women, presumably attracted to his celebrity rather than his scruffy looks and non-existent charm.

I don't know that we're supposed to feel sorry for Johnny Marco – boo hoo, it's tough being a star! – but perhaps to empathise. One assumes that Coppola, daughter of director Francis Ford, knows a thing or two about growing up in the rarified air of Hollywood as the child of a feted man. Personal experience informs Somewhere just as it did Coppola's most successful film, Lost In Translation, which also took place in the confines of a (Japanese) hotel and had as its central character a lonely actor (played brilliantly by Bill Murray).

But the similarities between the two films mostly end there. Lost In Translation is almost hyperactive compared to Somewhere's languid pacing, and the male-female dynamic (Scarlett Johansson playing a Coppola substitute in the earlier film) is of a completely different nature.

Dorff and Fanning work well together as father-daughter, relaxed and casual like the film itself. Marco curbs his vices when he's with Cleo and not begrudgingly; she represents the best of him and he knows it. The film is at its most engaging and best when the two are together. And much like Johnny Marco, it's almost intolerable without Cleo.

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