Stephen Dorff as Johnny Marco
Elle Fanning as Cleo
Chris Pontius as Sammy
Michelle Monaghan as Rebecca
Directed by Sofia Coppola
Johnny Marco (Stephen Dorff) is a well-known movie star who spends his days lounging around Hollywood’s Chateau Marmont until his 11-year-old daughter Cleo (Elle Fanning) turns up at his door and he’s forced to take on the responsibility of fatherhood.
In “Somewhere,” second-generation filmmaker Sofia Coppola seems to be trying to recreate the magic of her second film “Lost in Translation” by setting the entire film within a hotel, in this case Hollywood’s Chauteau Marmont where actors and filmmakers pass the time while waiting for their next role.
The character piece opens with Stephen Dorff’s character driving a sportscar around a racetrack for a few minutes, which is generally what you should expect for most of the film which acts as a fly-on-the-wall to the life of this actor. In one scene, we spend minutes watching him having a mold done of his face and a few other times, we spend long minutes watching him ogling two pretty blonde strippers, twins no less, doing a routine in his hotel room. Minutes after one such routine, we’re introduced to Johnny’s daughter Cleo and when a few minutes later, he’s watching her ice skating, what should have been a lovely and touching moment has an inadvertently creepy undertone in the way the two scenes are interplayed. Surely, Coppola never intended to create such a lurid comparison.
Otherwise, “Somewhere” seems to serve very little purpose except for Coppola to show some aspects of the lives of actors that even those who subscribe to “US Weekly” won’t have much interest in. Those watching the movie who don’t have interest in that L.A. lifestyle are likely to have very little connection to anything that happens in the movie, but it also feels like a subject matter that’s been better covered elsewhere. For instance, there’s a scene where Johnny gets a massage from a male masseuse that may have been funnier if it wasn’t a direct rip-off of a bit both from “Entourage” and “Seinfeld.” Other bits include Johnny doing press for his new movie with an actress who clearly despises him–a far-too-short cameo by Michelle Monaghan–and suffering through an international press conference. Fame has made Johnny incredibly paranoid, receiving angry texts from an unknown “admirer” and feeling as if he’s being followed.
Marco is essentially a spoiled guy who parties constantly to the point where he falls down the stairs and breaks his arm early in the film. You never really can feel bad for him or empathize with him since he basically has everything handed to him. When his daughter shows up, he really has very little to offer her, not that he has very much to offer us either, and it’s not until the very last ten minutes of the movie where he finally shows any sort of emotion or doubts about his chosen lifestyle.
The sad fact is that Dorff just isn’t very believable as an international superstar actor and Coppola may have been better off getting a real name actor like Brad Pitt to play the role (not that it would be likely they’d do it). We essentially spend the movie watching Dorff sitting around, saying very little few words and showing very little emotion or reaction to what he’s watching. Elle Fanning is far more impressive as his daughter Cleo but their two characters don’t really come together until the second half of the movie, and much of their interaction is them eating or playing games–ping pong, Guitar Hero, you name it–but none of it really adds much to the story.
The film does look great due to the masterful eye of Harris Savides and Coppola convinced hipster group Phoenix to handle the minimalist score this time around, but for the most part, there really doesn’t seem to be very much worth watching.
The Bottom Line:
What could have been a moving tale of a father and daughter reconnecting instead comes off as a interminably boring and pretentious bit of “inside baseball” wanking that will have very little interest to anyone outside the industry.