Somewhere: That Old Sofia Coppola Shoegaze Shuffle

12/22/2010 4:00 AM |


Directed by Sofia Coppola

The saddest moment of Sofia Coppola’s latest privilege parable, Somewhere, comes when Johnny Marco (Stephen Dorff), a delinquent-dad movie star womanizing his way through hibernation at the Chateau Marmont, takes a deep swig of his beer and absentmindedly fingers a pear resting in a bowl on the coffee table. This is that famous Coppola ennui, but stripped of period frippery or exotic scenery, and for a while here less really is more. In the opening shot Johnny revs his Ferrari around and around a desolate desert track; he struggles to be entertained by room-service stripper twins running through too-rigid coordinated motions. So delicate is the deflation in these initial scenes that Coppola’s otherwise clever summing-up of Hollyweird isolation, a slow zoom toward Johnny with his head trapped in a plaster-mold diving bell, has the effect of dispelling most of the film’s intoxicating downer vapors. Counterintuitively, the humanconnection story that begins to take shape feels like a comedown.

Plaster spells seclusion elsewhere, too: The first to sign the cast on Johnny’s arm is his 11-year-old daughter, Cleo (Elle Fanning, balancing between giggly and preternaturally poised). After Cleo’s mother (Johnny’s ex-wife) abruptly drops off the grid, father and daughter bond like crazy; Johnny finds a sliver of a sense of purpose, mostly externalized here through kindness to service-industry lifers, whom he previously treats only with dismissive politeness. Along the way, Somewhere covers Lost in Translation‘s greatest hits (alienating press junket, weird foreign celebrity tribute, all-meaningful sentiment made nearly inaudible by background noise). There is something admirably defiant about the way Coppola, daughter of Francis Ford, eggs on the psychobiographically inclined and then thwarts them through extreme shoegaze and beats recycled from her other fictions. But as a result Somewherejust feels like a series of detours, happy and sad, the latter being infinitely more vivid.

Opens December 22