I thought I was going to hate SOMEWHERE. In fact, I almost wanted to hate it. I had even crafted the first line of this review. "It must be possible to create a movie about boredom and alienation that is not itself boring and alienating." And as the curtain lifted on Sofia Coppola's latest movie, I thought I was going to have to walk out. For here we had a guy driving round a dirt track in a Ferrari - driving fast, going nowhere, static framing, not even choosing to show the whole circuit in the frame - and I thought "Oh god, this is some pretty heavy-handed metaphor we're trading in here." The credits came up and we switched to an interior scene at the infamous Hollywood hotel, the Château Marmont. Stephen Dorff is Johnny Marco - Hollywood star and good-time boy - so drunk he falls over and injures his wrist - recuperating in his bedroom with two blonde twins pole dancing for him in a manner so unerotic as to be ridiculous. I thought - here we go: poor little rich movie star, all alone in the Chateau Marmont, bored, alienated, self-hating, blah blah blah.
Having watched the entire movie, I can't disagree with its critics. This is yet another Sofia Coppola movie in which we see static framed, dialogue-free shots of beautiful people hating their beautiful lives. There is a deep-set narcissism here - both in terms of the narcissism of the characters and Coppola's assumption that we, The Ordinaries, give a rat's ass. There's also something rather snide in her treatment of the people who enable the Stars. Public relations people, agents, producers and TV stars are all depicted as basically sycophantic, fake morons. Even worse than that, SOMEWHERE could be seen as a deeply misogynistic film. Every woman Johnny meets throws herself at him, and even when they hate him (nasty text messages, "what the fuck?" meetings in hotel lobbies) they still respond to his summons. Even his 11 year old daughter Cleo, brilliantly portrayed by Elle Fanning, loves him, mothers him, raises an eyebrow but not a fuss when his one-night stand shows up at breakfast. She'll still love him even after he off-loads her at camp.
This movie has technical faults too. No film-maker should dare to quote from Fellini's masterpiece of ennui, LA DOLCE VITA unless they are willing to make the stakes as high (death, suicide, alcoholism) as Fellini did. But Coppola does it twice - first in a press conference where the questions are asinine, second in a pivotal scene near the end where Johnny's confession to Cleo is drowned out by the sound of a helicopter. Worst of all, I think the movie is simply ten minutes too long. I bought into all of it except the final character development. Without spoiling the ending, is it really credible that we should see such action from a person who has up until now been entirely passive?
Still, for all its narcissism and misogyny, SOMEWHERE really did get under my skin. Why? Because I genuinely enjoyed watching the relationship between Johnny and Cleo and Johnny's best friend Sam (Chris Pontius). There is something rather touching in the way in which a guy who is basically a waster can still be a loving father, at least when his daughter is within his sight. I also like the symmetry of actions e.g. when Cleo is with Johnny she lovingly cooks for him, then when he's on his own he makes a cak-handed attempted to cook for himself. This is a more eloquent portrayal of a lonely soul than a histrionic emotional breakdown would've been. I also got into the static framing and long takes of not much happening. It was relaxing and contemplative and gave me room to consider what was going in the relationships on screen. So, overall, I'd say that I really liked SOMEWHERE. It's not flawless, but it did affect me, and it affected me more than the movie most critics seem to prefer, the thematically similar but stylistically more showy LOST IN TRANSLATION.
SOMEWHERE played Venice 2010 where it won the Golden Lion, beating BLACK SWAN, and London 2010. It opened earlier this year in Italy, Sweden, Denmark, Greece, Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Kazakhstan and Russia. It is currently on release in the UK and the US. It opens later this month in Australia, Norway, Finland and Malaysia. It opens in France, Estonia and Brazil in January and in the Czech Republic on February 10th. It opens on April 2nd in Japan.