Review – Somewhere

…on the 2nd day of Castmas the Chrazzas gave to me…

Welcome to Day 2 of Casta La Vista’s 12 Days of Castmas. It’s time for a written review from Chris W of Sofia Coppola’s latest film Somewhere. The film stars Stephen Dorff as isolated Hollywood actor Johnny Marco and Elle Fanning (sister of Dakota) as his daughter Cleo. Bake ‘em away Toys!

I would like to urge every single one of you delicious readers out there to go and see Somewhere if it is showing near you. However I fear that in doing so I may receive as many negative responses to the film as I might positive and in that sense I’m not sure it is worth it. This film is not one of those fabled Marmite films that I’m always going on about; in my opinion it is an unflinching portrayal of some very realistic characters and relationships that I honestly think could be considered as a masterpiece in years to come by some, but will probably be dismissed as boring and uneventful by others.

If you think you may be one to interpret Somewhere in the latter way then I would recommend that you stay away from this film, and potentially all of Sofia Coppola’s other work. This isn’t for you.

Somewhere isn’t a hard watch in terms of keeping focused; in fact I found it quite relaxing. It is touching, funny and unnerving in equal measure, and yet all of these elements are probably no greater than the alcohol vapour at the bottom of an empty shot glass.

Johnny Marco (Stephen Dorff in a performance that deserves far more recognition than it will probably get from the Awards boffins in a couple of months) is a lonely man, but one that doesn’t realise it.

Surrounded by assistants, friends, hangers-on, journalists and fans, Johnny lives in a world where there is always a distraction that stops him from contemplating his existence up to the point where he falls asleep each night. He drinks a lot, but he isn’t necessarily an alcoholic. He loves his daughter although she never hears him say it. He owns a fast sports car but all its good for is driving round in circles.

The unseen element of Johnny’s life is his fame and his career. Despite being given glimpses of his ‘day job’ as he attends awards ceremonies, press junkets and make-up sessions, the film is about Hollywood without any real Hollywood on show. Coppola purposefully avoids any major allusions to Johnny Marco’s celebrity status to the world at large and instead focuses on how it impacts his personal relationships and day-to-day life. As such he is whisked from one city to the next and called about appointments that he has forgotten about; he is constantly surrounded by beautiful women who want to sleep with him; he is pampered and patronised everywhere he goes by assistants and PR folk; yet he is paranoid of every black SUV that drives behind him (it could be Paparazzi) and will not stand up to the taunting text messages he receives from a withheld number.

If anything, watching Somewhere causes the viewer to feel voyeur. Coppola’s camera lingers on scenes to the point of outstaying its welcome. As Marco, uncomfortably numb on painkillers, watches two pole dancers at the end of his bed we get the point and want to move on yet we aren’t allowed to and are forced to watch the whole routine with Johnny. Fitted with a mask to take a mould of his head, Johnny must stay still and silent for 40 minutes as it dries; we watch him for minutes at a time as he sits there completely unaware of our presence.  A tender moment between a father and daughter sunbathing together pulls back to reveal the couple are poolside at a communal swimming pool, surrounded by other hotel guests and staff; suddenly we are at a distance, in the bushes looking down. Lesser filmmakers than Coppola would blink first and cut away, yet Sofia’s steady hand holds us in place and we watch on, increasingly nervous that we might be spotted.

Other films and TV shows set within the world of filmmaking have taken more conventional swipes at the Hollywood system by focusing on its flaws and greed. Often these films are more biting and satirical. I doubt very much that when Sofia Coppola wrote Somewhere she was intending to do the same thing.

Look closely and you’ll see that the film does not glamorise celebrity and fame, but nor does it criticize it or seek to rubbish it as a lifestyle.

The emptiness and shallowness of Johnny Marco’s life is more down to his own misgivings as a human being than it is the fault of the Hollywood machine. His is a character that has certainly become used to a lifestyle, and he never seems to show any sense of appreciation for the opportunities afforded to him by his social status.

People may be quick to label Marco as a pathetic character, or a bad person, perhaps others may feel sorry for him and blame the system for how he has been corrupted.

I prefer to think that the real Johnny can be summed up in the way he answers a fledgling actor who asks him for advice and questions where Johnny learnt his craft; “I don’t have a method” says Johnny “I just did a few jobs and here I am”. Johnny doesn’t have the answers because he is oblivious to the fact that he is an actor or a star- this is just his life, and he’s getting on with it, or the lack of it.

Somewhere is a slow film no doubt, but I found it extremely rewarding. Once the preconception (once again the fault of bad marketing) that this might be a film about love or epiphany or incident is removed I think most viewers will find much to enjoy, particularly in the form of the movies beating heart Cleo played by Elle Fanning. As the younger sister of Dakota, Elle has some pretty big (and super skinny) boots to fill, but based on this and upcoming projects like Super 8 the sky is blue for this one time Daddy Day Care enrolee (check it out- she’s cute as a button in it!).

The story of the film is told not by its characters but by the cinematography; Coppola consistently positions Marco off to one side or out of frame all together- the centre of attention suddenly out of focus in the real world.

Easy to interpret, Somewhere starts with a man going round in circles and ends with him walking down an open road towards tomorrow; symbolism at its most ham-fisted, but effective nonetheless. It might not offer any answers or conclusions as to where that tomorrow leads, but then again life rarely does does it?

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9 Responses to Review – Somewhere

  1. Katie says:

    Five stars? Really? I thought you might have given it four as I know you liked it, but five suggests there was really nothing about it that you would change.

    I am one of those people you have mentioned who didnt like the film, and on your recommendation I would like to avoid all SC other films – however seeing as that i am almost married to you im not sure how this can be accomplished?!

    I felt like the film didnt really say anything, it didnt make me think anything about hollywood that i didnt already think and i didnt feel any thing for the characters either. It was a chance for SC to show (but not analyse) Hollywood and its people by using quite simplistic methods (your last paragraph for example).

    I was just expecting to be blown away by this film i think….

    • misschraddon says:

      I’m with you here Katie, I’ve avoided Somewhere purely because I think I’ll just sit there criminally bored for the duration. Good shout – but see what you’re marrying into?!

      Also I think the five stars relates to the post itself and not the movie, so someone somewhere (arf!) thinks Chris is bob on!

  2. wakeman24 says:

    KD is your 5 stars comment related to the stars at the end of the post? They are for reviews on the article you ninny…

    That said I did love the movie (and I love it more the more I think about it) but it wasn’t without fault. It could have done with SOME incident just to glue everything together, but I was gripped by the tedium (weird sentence!)

    I’d probably give it 4 out of 5.

  3. And you thought Hornet’s Nest was boring?

    • misschraddon says:

      I saw Kayla’s twitter post about seeing it and was even more glad that I didn’t!

    • wakeman24 says:

      Yes, because Hornet’s nest promised to be about something and was hours of conversation dressed up as ‘something’.

      I think with its opening shot Somewhere makes itself very clear about what sort of film it is going to be, and if you can’t stand the heat…

  4. You wanted negative response, you got it. Somewhere is a huge letdown. My personal review contains many comparisons to human excrement. 2 Stars.

  5. […] a review of Somewhere as part of our 12 Days of Castmas extravaganza and those words can be found here. Since writing that review my opinion on the film has not waned, in fact if anything it has […]

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