The latest film from Sofia Coppola is certainly not a Disney film. One may be asking, why such a divergent comparison. We’ve all seen those Disney films where the protagonist is living life at a break neck speed or not living at all. When the character’s unknown child appears on the door step, putting the life, the character, once knew upside down. This is more or less almost the same story, but made for adults, with a more realistic eye instead of unfettered extravagance.
John Marco (Stephen Dorff) is a movie star bad boy. He lives at a famous hotel in L.A. He parties, drinks, has strippers over then does it all over again. There is not much in his life that is fulfilling. Even when he has two twin strip teasers dancing in front of him, he falls asleep. John does not find much enjoyment in what he does; it seems for him, he does it for something to do, to try and avoid the meaninglessness of his life. The opening image really sets the movie. John is driving in circles in his sports car, going nowhere. After a few laps does he stop his car and wonder what he is doing.
John knows his daughter exists. She comes over to spend time with her dad and he takes her shopping and to figure skating class. They also play video games together. Cloe, John’s daughter, is played by Elle Fanning, which she does a good job at playing her. It is when the mother calls to tell John she is going away and he is going to, have to take care of Chloe. When John has to send his daughter off to camp, for a couple of weeks, and returns to his life, without her, does he realize his emptiness.
There are similarities to this film and Lost in Translation (2003), also directed by Sophia Coppola. Both men are living in hotels away from their families and feeling something is missing. Only difference is Bill Murray’s character from Lost in Translation is aware of this emptiness while John is not. This is set up, of John’s emptiness, early on never really goes anywhere. This could be the point, but because John is so distant from himself so is the audience distant from John, we never really connect with him. This makes for a very distancing film. There are many scenes in which the viewer watches John do pointless things. This makes for a deliberately slow pace to the film but it never seems to build. Unlike one of my favorite film makers, Kelly Reichardt with her recent most recent film Meek’s Cutoff (2010), this has a slow build. Also because of John’s emptiness and his inability to notice this for most of the film, this makes for a less poignant movie then Lost in Translation.
While Roger Ebert has a positive and insightful review of Somewhere. I cannot agree with such a rave review. The character of John is to distance from the viewer and not very interesting to watch. The viewer understands this early on and the film may have benefited more if the entrance of the daughter was earlier on. Even though I have distaste for this film I would rather watch this then most Hollywood smut.