Somewhere out there, there are celebrities and CEOs and other famous, bored people who go see Sofia Coppola’s new movie and think to themselves, oh, OH, thank the lord someone has finally made a movie about how hard it is to be ridiculously wealthy. I’m not saying that being rich will buy you happiness—poor mental health transcends class, undoubtedly—but if you want me to watch a film about the sorrows of being able to fly anywhere, bonk anyone, and have everyone love you, then you better make it interesting. And Sofia, while you look like a nice person and I loved The Virgin Suicides and adored Lost in Translation (and as you are an ex-partner of Quentin Tarantino I will forever hold you in high esteem), I found Somewhere to be self-indulgent and dull. Sorry.
In LA’s Chateau Marmont, hotel to the famous and the place to do stupid things that end up on TMZ, famous actor Johnny Marco (Stephen Dorff) is holed up waiting for the upcoming media junket for his new action flick and recuperating after a staircase-induced arm injury. He also drives a luxury sports car, as the five-minute opening sequence of him circling a racetrack in it will attest. In other news, his daughter Cleo (Elle Fanning) comes to stay for an indefinite period of time, dropped off by her mother. During this there is lots of brooding, no real talking for the first fifteen minutes, and no actual, long proper conversation for the entire length of the film, which is about an hour and a half, maybe less. So, the fact it’s short is a plus. Another point in the movie’s favour are the actors themselves—Stephen Dorff is quite likeable, Elle Fanning is great as Cleo, and the only other actor in it for any period of time, Jackass alumni Chris Pontius and his luxurious hair, is perfectly agreeable as Johnny’s best friend. Coppola herself turns up in a party scene, in case we hadn’t already thought that the life of a kid following her famous dad around hotels had any kind of autobiographical elements.
The movie is a series of vignettes about Marco’s existence over a few weeks, each scene carefully thought out and executed to perfection. We see him watch two awkward pole-dancing shows in his room (and in case you were worried it was too subtle, he falls asleep during the first one); look morose at his own party; sunbathe with his daughter; receive anonymous text messages calling him names; order room-service gelato with Cleo in an Italian hotel room; do a lot of driving; and have sex with everyone who makes eye contact with him. There is a startling dearth of speaking, and much like those scenes in Family Guy when Peter trips over and hisses over his hurt knee for five straight minutes, each moment is stretched out as long as is possible, then for, say, four minutes more. Thus poignancy turns tedious, and we physically feel the pain and torment of life as a star. It’ll make you want to donate to an ennui-based charity.
The juxtaposition of scenes seems important and telling, like when one of the pole-dancing scenes is followed by an uncomfortable viewing of eleven-year-old Cleo’s ice-skating routine. Hers is not a raunchy routine, nor is it perfect, and it gains the attention of Johnny like the dancers could not, but seeing her skimpy, glittery costume so soon after other skimpy, sexualised costumes is most definitely disconcerting. I don’t quite know what the message was. Dancing and metal props don’t mix?
Johnny and Cleo’s relationship doesn’t seem to be the point, as it follows a straight, drama-free trajectory. Johnny’s interactions with everyone are fairly mundane or friendly, his affairs only temporarily distracting. His hedonistic tendencies are on show, but still do not make him an unappealing character, meaning he lacks any real depth. When he calls one of his lovers to ask for company and she says no, he cries in despair, but with none of his past on display or many of his emotions or motivations revealed, I just couldn’t understand or care.
An enjoyable moment with a masseuse and affable characters, along with fine acting, lifts the movie out of the bin and possibly above the horror that was Tron: Legacy. The soundtrack has been much lauded but went largely unnoticed by me—which is not necessarily a bad thing, however, especially as I can’t stand Phoenix, who had a hand in it. It looks gritty and indie, and raw and true. But I still looked at my watch a lot, and wished Johnny would brush his hair just once, honestly.
In summary: Below Expectations. I feel she was striving for beauty and emotion, and instead got beauty and nothing else underneath, like when you’re walking through the Basement at Myer and think you see some well-dressed dude sitting down until you come to the devastating realisation that it’s a stragetically placed mannequin and will probably not appreciate your well-thought-out pickup line. And nothing will ever pull you out of a movie more than seeing the boom appear at the top of the screen not once, but twice. For shame. I’m shaking my head at my laptop now in pointed despair, Sofia.