The Review: Somewhere

No lie my Review page is running dry – but that’s not for lack of watching movies. But how embarrassing that the last film I reviewed was Despicable me

So I’ll begin with the most recent indie I caught at the end of last year. Somewhere.

Now if you’ve seen The Virgin Suicides,Lost in Translation and the on set snaps of the new Miss Dior adverts starring the gamine beauty Oscar winner/mum to be wth??? Natalie Portman, then you will know that  Ms Coppola knows how to shoot a film of (seemingly) simple, aesthetic cinematic beauty.  Her other film that I know you’re thinking that I forgot about – I didn’t. Marie Antoinette was a handsome movie but that is all, luckily Coppola’s  fourth feature does not disappoint. , and with a very cool, verging on the pretentious soundtrack to back it up,  its already got a space on my DVD shelf.

The story centres on Johnny Marco (‘an endearing if not weary performance by Stephen Dorff) an A-list actor who is living at the famed yet ever intriguing haven/prison Chateau Marmont Hotel.

The films opening scene sets up the debauched and somewhat segregated world that Marco is living in. Plain white walls, not particularly attractively lit, loud music blaring from somewhere in the apartment, a bed with the less than debonair actor sprawled and a back and forth play of static shots between him and two perfectly formed yet slightly sinister pole dancing twins.

 

Dorff as Johnny Marco in 'Somewhere' (2010)

This may be reading too much in to it, but the subtext of it is, Marco’s career has come to that awkward peak of Hollywood celebrity excess that sees his film career teetering so dangerously, waiting for the next move to be the right one.  Home is where the heart is? well Johnny Marco hasn’t got a home, he has a hotel room and what  better metaphorical setting than the Marmont – perhaps the common strand in many a low point in a Hollywood stars lifeline –  to capture the ironic sense of loneliness  in a Hollywood’s stars life and through the ironic loneliness  hotels are so good at displaying despite all those strangers living under one roof – yet strangers nonetheless.

When his 11-year-old daughter Cleo (Elle Fanning) enters the scene the wafer-thin layers of Marco’s character begin peel back and what you already perceive to be a 2 dimensional character who will inevitably spend the film on a moral journey till he finds his true purpose in life, is actually a hollow and sad one. He’s somewhere between being an adolescent and an adult, somewhere between friend and a father, his career is somewhere between excessive celebrity and a has-been. Cleo’s extended presence and subsequent departure gives Johnny –  excuse me for this – the role of a lifetime,  his meaningless and lonely existence is suddenly anchored and preoccupied by being more than just a weekend father to his child.

 

Dorff and Fanning (R) as Johnny Marco and Cleo 'Somewhere' 2010

 

The film is slow, shot almost in real-time, but then in true Sofia Coppola style it’s also a vain observation of the privileged lives of others and the palpable conclusion that they are flawed, lost and self-destructive beings. I can’t help but think this is exactly the role Stephen Dorff needed – he’s probably a little like Johnny Marco, his career though still active has been according to IMDB  a series of made-for-money c-list type movies rather than festival worthy character driven ones. He deserves it and earns it in this film, it may look like he isn’t even trying to act and that’s the beauty of it. Elle Fanning is gorgeous, sincere, impossible to look away from in this movie – unfavourable comparisons to her famous sister are inevitable, but there’s no innocence lost with this girl. Unlike so many child actors she actually still acts like one – none of that unnerving adult-like acting you get predecessors like Hayley Joel Osmant, Chloe Moretz and the elder Fanning –  just pure 12-year-old innocence is played out.

 

'Somewhere' 2010

Their bond feels slightly awkward at first but only as one can expect from a man who’s used to ogling young blond’s not actually looking after one. However they relationship plays out wonderfully throughout the film so much so that the scenes leading up to and when she does leave, conjure up a sense of loneliness for the audience and for Marco all over again.

The realisation of Johnny Marco’s predicament isn’t original material for a script let alone its director by no means –  helloooo Lost in Translation? but it doesn’t make Somewhere any less poignant and wonderful to watch.

 

 

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