Time to pull out that old dusty critic’s hat. It’s rare that I use it because how deeply does one need to investigate a movie like ‘Mega Piranha’ or ‘Mega Fault’ or ‘Run Bitch Run’? But ‘Somewhere’ is a Sofia Coppola movie and ‘Somewhere’, similar to Ms. Coppola’s ‘Lost in Translation’ is a movie that simply doesn’t allow you to just sit there. I mean you could just sit there... but then you will hate this movie. There’s no real plot to speak of, the dialog is minimal, our main character is deplorable, plus he’s a movie star which makes him even more deplorable and when the movie ends, it concludes a lot like it began. Nope… you’re gonna have to watch, contemplate, decipher and translate. Good luck if you choose to take on this mission.
The film opens with a black Ferrari driving around and around and around in circles. This fancy car is being driven by the movie star Johnny Marco (Stephen Dorff). Why is Johnny driving this car round and round in circles? Clearly because Johnny is going nowhere fast. Johnny lives in a famous Hollywood hotel, Johnny drinks too much, he’s paparazzi paranoid, he takes too many drugs and he has sex with too many women with none of these activities bringing Johnny the slightest bit of joy.
The only pleasure Johnny seems to get out of life, maybe, comes from the occasional visit from his eleven year old daughter Cleo (Elle Fanning). We say ‘maybe’ because despite our observance of Johnny’s clear path to self-destruction, he is still a very good movie star. When his publicist wakes him up to go to a presser or to show up for some appointment or to catch a flight, Johnny is there. Same with his daughter. Whenever Cleo shows up for her scheduled visits Johnny does everything a father is supposed to do with his child. He puts his childish ways aside, he focuses his attentions on her, he plays with her and he gives her encouragement. Johnny might be a mess, but he is at least well trained.
This particular stay with her father is going to have to be an extended one for a while since Cleo’s mom has checked out of motherhood for an undetermined amount of time. We aren’t exactly sure why this woman has burned out but it can’t be Cleo’s fault because Cleo Marco is, without nary a doubt, the greatest kid ever. Cleo doesn’t back talk, she funny, she’s intelligent, she’s talented, she’s mindful, she’s respectful,
she doesn’t take up much space, she speaks when spoken to, she keeps her emotions under as much control as can be expected from an eleven year old girl and she cleans up behind herself. Cleo is awesome. I don’t know anything about the personal life of writer / director Sofia Coppola, but I’m going to guess that the woman doesn’t have any kids.
Johnny’s task in relation to this extended stay is just to keep his daughter occupied until she has to go summer camp in a couple weeks. Father and daughter spend some quality time with each other in Milan, head back to Hollywood for some fun by the pool and they get to know each other in a way that doesn’t involve the use of words. If I were to give Johnny Marco a little advice I tell him to get a Winstar or an Odyssey or something because ‘Ferrari’ and ‘Summer Camp’ are two words that don’t go together all that well.
So what exactly are we to make about this movie ‘Somewhere’ which is really about nothing in particular, no matter what anybody else tries to tell you. Personally I don’t know what to make of this movie to be honest with you. I would imagine that many elements of this movie are personal for the director considering that she was born into this business and has probably seen and experienced a lot of things that the overwhelming majority of us cannot even begin to relate to, but to her credit as a filmmaker none of these elements ever seemed to be beyond us. Family, loyalty, despair, depression, uncertainty… be you a movie star or a schoolteacher these are things that almost all of us can relate to on some basic level.
But what does it all mean? People should focus on
important in this life? Well, Johnny might be a mess but
already mentioned, in this movie he pays more attention
to his kid than
most parents who aren’t movie stars, aren’t alcoholics
and don’t do
drugs. Perhaps the meaning is even deeper in that there
is no meaning,
and life itself has no meaning. Thus we have the opening
scene of the
really fast car going nowhere because in this life there
is no real
point to it and there is nowhere to go. You can go as
fast as you want
but you will still end up exactly where you are. Or
maybe she’s telling
me that driving your car in a circle is stupid.
Sofia Coppola is anti-NASCAR.
The bottom line is I don’t know. Static camera shots of cars driving in circles, long camera shots of cars driving down freeways, lengthy shots of people saying nothing to each other… I don’t know. Oddly enough watching these people do nothing was strangely entertaining on some level, but then this is a director who is accomplished at doing just this kind of thing so we are not surprised by this. But outside of that I didn’t get anything out of ‘Somewhere’ but I hope, if you have seen this movie, that you have fared better than I.