Published Jan 06, 2011In the opening scene of Sofia Coppola's latest treatise on young women trying to find their place in a flippant, superficial world while the men they look up to stew in their own purposelessness, a black Ferrari speeds around a barren, makeshift racetrack repeatedly, eventually stopping to let out scruffy, and somewhat dishevelled, Johnny Marco (Stephen Dorff). The metaphor is clear: this man is going nowhere fast.
Subsequent scenes — mostly shot in stationary tableau form, as though Roy Andersson decided to tone down his surrealist impulses to remake The Player — have Johnny Marco lying in bed while twin pole dancers perform in his room to "My Hero" by the Foo Fighters (irony noted) or feature him following a random hot chick that looks his way while driving. When not drinking alone, his socialization is limited to PR obligations, random hook-ups and paid service, which is occasionally interrupted by a random house party filled with vacuous starfucker drones.
Without exaggerating anything or constructing any undue, forced histrionics, Coppola has recreated a world of privilege and celebrity isolation in a vapid L.A. culture. It's given humanity only by the arrival of Marco's well-adjusted, observant daughter, Cleo (Elle Fanning), whose presence adds motivation and life to the otherwise gaping void of her father's quotidian existence.
Aside from a couple of revelatory scenes near the end where both Cleo and Johnny announce their base fears, Somewhere consists mostly of incidental sequences of swimming, eating dinner and playing Nintendo Wii. Viewers are given enough leeway and respect to fill in any blanks, interpreting the film in whatever way provides the most personal catharsis. Coppola has merely constructed a work of restrained formal specificity, framing each logical moment of an empty life so that we can observe and judge as we will.
The cinematic insight comes from the natural believability of each moment, as created by Fanning and Dorff's father-daughter chemistry, as well as the voyeuristic sense that we are observing an untarnished, accurate vision of the uncontroversial lives of the rich and famous. Of course, the comprehension that Coppola would have firsthand knowledge of such things doesn't hurt.
It may be an arguably slow film, and the passive stylistic restraint doesn't help this, but there's a sense of deep hurt and soulful examination bursting from between the lines. Amongst other things, Somewhere shows us a writer/director that continues to grow and demonstrate promise. (Alliance)