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May 2, 2012

3

Somewhere

by Franz Patrick


Somewhere (2010)
★★★ / ★★★★

Johnny Marco (Stephen Dorff) was a successful actor who lived in a posh hotel. He spent his days playing video games, sometimes attending interviews to promote his upcoming film, but there were times when he just sat around and stared into nothingness. His nights consisted of partying, drinking, watching two blonde exotic dancers work a pole, and sleeping with women he barely knew. In his case, a successful career did not equal happiness. Written and directed by Sofia Coppola, I feared that “Somewhere” began on the verge of insularity. Johnny driving around in circles in his fancy car was a heavy metaphor of his life going nowhere and fast, supported by unnecessary and more symbolic extended scenes. For example, the two women dancing on and around a pole which finally ended when Johnny fell asleep. I get it–he was apathetic even to things that excited most men. The director was so desperate to show us that Johnny was a lonely person when she didn’t need to. The moment Cleo (Elle Fanning), the actor’s eleven-year-old daughter, arrived, the story picked up because of her young, vibrant energy. The scene that stood out to me most was when the father, in such a simple way, looked at his daughter dancing on ice. It was one of the very few scenes when Johnny wasn’t the one being watched. When he was at the hotel, women gave him seductive looks. Sometimes a fan would recognize him and he or she would try to make banal conversations. When Johnny drove around Hollywood, he felt like he was being followed by someone in a black SUV. Many of the scenes centered around people looking for or looking at him. When nobody was looking at him, it was refreshing for him. He felt like he could breathe, like he was as normal as he once was. It felt like freedom. Furthermore, watching his daughter was the moment when I believed Johnny made an active decision to strive to be a better man–not necessarily the best father, but a better person who could be there for his daughter regardless of the reason. His personal promise was tested when Cleo’s mother, presumably divorced from Johnny, suddenly decided that she needed a break from life. Johnny had to go to Italy for the premiere of his movie so he took Cleo along. Cleo didn’t always agree with her father’s lifestyle, especially sleeping with random women and allowing them to stay until morning, but she wasn’t a brat. She internalized yet her eyes said everything what simple words couldn’t express. I was able to relate with her because I tend to do the same thing when I’m upset with someone who caused a negative situation. I believe “Somewhere” had a wonderful lesson about parenting. Sometimes a parent being there is just what a child needs. I stared into Johnny’s eyes and I couldn’t help but feel moved. It was like looking into the eyes of parents who think they’ve failed or that they’ve achieved nothing, not realizing that, in their children eyes, they mean absolutely everything.

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3 Comments Post a comment
  1. May 2 2012

    Franz,

    I think I agree with every word in this review, except for me it was a two-star film. Agreed about heavy metaphors. Agreed about “I get it” reaction to pole dancing sequence. Agreed that the ice skating scene was sweet and touching, At some point in the movie its extremely slow pacing began to grate on me (no doubt related to the aforementioned heavy metaphor), and with the Italy show; didn’t Coppola just re-stage the sense of alienation that Bill Murray felt in the TV show in ‘Lost in Translation’? It felt a little lazy.

    My partial annoyance with the pacing aside, though I have to say that at times it took on an almost zen-like quality. I drifted in and out of the movie in my mind, waiting for things to happen. But the most important reason why the movie really worked when it did work, was the minimalism of Elle Fanning’s performance. She’ll win an Oscar within six-or-seven years. For my money, she could have been nominated last year for ‘Super 8′.

    Reply
    • May 3 2012

      I agree. I did notice Coppola at times relegating to her comfort zone when she tackles the topic of alienation to others and of oneself. It still worked for me but less so because, like you said, it’s been done in “Lost in Translation.” I’m interested in watching her experiment with other genres. I see she has “The Bling Ring” coming up. I’m thinking it’s a move toward mainstream comedy?

      Elle Fanning is, I think, an interesting actress. Interesting to look at and because she seems to naturally find a way for us to want to get to know the person she’s playing. Yeah, she was good in “Super 8,” but I’m not sure if her performance was Oscar-worthy. She has a lot of talent, though. Definitely future movie star material like a young Drew Barrymore.

      Reply
      • May 6 2012

        Franz,

        Granted, I might have overstated my case a bit with the Oscar thing, but I think it’s the kind of performance that could, if you’re lucky, earn you a Supporting Actress nod at the Globes. It’s all there in the scene in Super 8 where she’s supposed to show real emotion, and the others just stand there, awestruck. She had that quality throughout that movie, outshining her fellow screen presences consistently. Her role in Somewhere is different in a number of ways, but she definitely brought some much needed tension (and sweetness, and sense of “direction” or “purpose”) to the whole exercise, both within the narrative itself, and in terms of justifying the movie’s very existence.

        Reply

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