The journey of life is to find some sort of purpose, to either build a home, write a piece of music or just to simply build a life and become a parent. In the new film from Sofia Coppola, “Somewhere”, she sets off to find purpose for her characters. Set almost entirely in the hallways, rooms and lobbies of the legendary Chateau Mormont in Hollywood. Sofia Coppola figures out the meaning of the life for the superstar actor Johnny Marco (Stephen Dorff) and how his 11-year-old daughter, Cleo (Elle Fanning) fits into it.
The film is like a slow drink of whiskey, often sharp but goes down slowly. Most of Sofia Coppola’s films follow this fashion, not so much about plot or even character; she seems more interested with mood than anything else. The film opens with Johnny Marco in his stylish black Ferrari circling a racetrack at breakneck speed over and over again. As the car speeds past the camera, we as the audience are left to slowly think about this image. Where is it going and why? Of course the car is going nowhere. As the car stops, Johnny gets out and looks around as if to warn the audience, I am here and I don’t know where “here” is, then the film cuts to the title card, “Somewhere”. Interesting?
We are brought into the world of Johnny Marco, filled with impromptu parties that consist of alcohol, pills and rather loose women. The following scene involves Johnny drunkenly falling down a flight of stairs, breaking his forearm as his brother Sammy (Chris Pontius), while surrounded by beautiful women, laughs on. “Somewhere” captures how mundane it is to have nothing to do even if you are rich, famous and young. Conflicted on my thoughts about the subject matter, why am I supposed to care? Would it be better if this were an introspective film about poor people? Shot interestingly, the characters struggle to find something to do, could easily be short sighted but Coppola brings an interesting eye to this story. She strips down its worldly perceptions and boils it down to simply being about humanity.
Most everything changes when Johnny Marco’s daughter, Cleo, enters the picture. Johnny’s transition between hapless douchebag to loving father is seamless. Suddenly there is life in Johnny Marco, always choosing his daughter above all else. Giving Johnny this human quality makes his character more accessible and sympathetic. Their relationship through Sofia Coppola’s camera is simply too exhilarating to watch! A sweet smile from Cleo during an Italian award show and an underwater tea party says so much about this film and general joy between a father and daughter. This is something you might find in Yasujiro Ozu’s “Late Spring” or Alain Resnais’ “Last Year At Marienbad”; Sofia Coppola takes these influences and gives them a hip and American sensibility by infusing them with an American Apparel aesthetic and the music of The Strokes.
By the end of the film, the destination is just as fuzzy as when it started, but to me, it gives it a sweet kiss that only Sofia Coppola can deliver in modern American Cinema. “Somewhere” is not for everyone but if you do enjoy small, mood driven films then I highly recommend this movie. Sofia Coppola won the Golden Lion Award at the 2010 Venice Film Festival to much controversy. The critical response to this film was very mixed. This film is more about ideas and exploration and between those things we are left somewhere. This is a rather poignant title to this film.