Writer/director Sofia Coppola’s slow-moving slice-of-life drama Somewhere follows the day-to-day routine of a Hollywood star as he drifts between hotels, press junkets, floozy women and juggles the duties of being a father.
Stephen Dorff plays Johnny Marco, a big-name Hollywood actor forever whisked between photo ops, publicists and gushing fans. The focus is very much squared on Marco; it’s no coincidence that high up on the film’s credits are performances by Party Girl #1, #2 and #3. Despite the story’s contemplative approach only two characters resemble anything close to three dimensional portraits, and still, with Coppola’s floaty style, they remain largely enigmas.
One is Marco and the other is Marco’s 11-year-old daughter Cleo (Elle Fanning), who embodies the story’s subtle manner of suggesting that greater things than drinking, drugs and sex exist in Hollywood.
Somewhere is thoughtful, modest and a little too self-knowingly understated. It reinforces Coppola’s oeuvre as one that, unlike her famous auteur-cum-winemaker father Francis Ford, shows no attempt to bridge the gap between “art” and multiplex. It’s almost impossible to imagine her making a movie as broadly appealing as The Godfather (1972) or as bombastic and unwieldy as Apocalypse Now (1979).
Sofia’s ultimate work is still the sublime Lost in Translation (2003). Her style emphasises long shots, single frames, unassuming performances and stories that drift onto the frame and off, never cleanly divided into three act storytelling. When she’s on, she’s on, but the organic stylings of a film like Somewhere also feel paradoxically contrived and self-aware.
Marco is introduced by nothing as obvious as a stroll down the red carpet or a gaggle of paparazzi; we meet him as he is lazily watching dial-a-room pole dancers in bed and come to understand his celebrity over time. Like Dorff’s prosaic but endearing performance the film becomes progressively more interesting as it grows fully formed and cohesive. Somewhere is a minor work, but it’s interesting and nuanced.