Johnny Marco (Stephen Dorff) is a divorced, irresponsible actor plowing through a life of excess - girls, booze and cars - while ensconced at West Hollywood's Chateau Marmont Hotel. An unscheduled visit from his 11-year-old daughter (Elle Fanning), requires him to pay attention to her and prompts him to question his life and face up to the things every father has to confront.
Review by Louise Keller:
Writing about what she knows, Sofia Coppola explores a slice of Hollywood life, with its crazy excesses, temptations, luxurious settings and trappings. We get a sense of it all, through the eyes of actor Johnny Marco (Stephen Dorff) and his eleven year old daughter Chloe (Elle Fanning), who has seen it all before. Not much happens, but Coppola's highly observant film captures the laid back rhythms of the lifestyle and allows us to observe and soak it all up. Voyeuristic and often reminiscent of a documentary, it's a fascinating insight, although it never touches us in the way that Lost in Translation captured our hearts.
Stephen Dorff is well cast as the drinking, pill-popping, womanising, jaded actor who drives a black Ferrari round and round aimlessly in circles on a dusty, deserted California highway. With his arm in a plaster cast from an onset mishap, his home for now is Room 59 at the infamous Chateau Marmont, where anything goes and there is no need to advertise. There are skimpily dressed, identical pole dancing twins that promote their skills in his bedroom, bare breasted women around every corner, pills, booze and parties laced with magnums of insincerity. A publicist gushes and tells him how awesome he looks, when we know better and there's a classic moment when he shares the lift with an uncredited Benicio Del Toro.
The perspective changes as Johnny's young daughter from his broken marriage comes to stay. (Fanning gives a disarmingly natural performance.) There's little adjusting to the new addition; Chloe makes no demands and simply fits in. But there's a chill in the air when Chloe wakes up to find a leggy blonde at the breakfast table. Nothing is said but the expression in Chloe's eyes says it all. There are blondes and brunettes in abundance - everywhere he seems to look, there's another flower waiting to be plucked. All the action takes place within a locked off frame, allowing all our concentrations to be focused on what is happening in that moment. There's an extravagant junket to a plush hotel in Milan, complete with swimming pool and Jacuzzi in the suite and the incongruity of watching an episode of Friends dubbed in Italian. Hotel life is much of a muchness. There's a bizarre ageing make-up transformation, late night room service and an option of gelato flavours, police escorts, helicopter transfers and plenty of gush. Disillusionment sets in.
Winner of the 2010 Golden Lion in Venice, Somewhere is dense, graceful and perceptive. It appears simple, yet the superficial, layered and complex lifestyle into which we are effortlessly sucked, leaves a lasting impression.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Sofia Coppola of the Coppola film dynasty knows a thing or two about Hollywood and fame, and what it can do to you. Or to anyone. She takes a rather typical young actor who has had too much of both too early for his own good, and explores how he might begin to mature as a man when faced with a burst of responsibility and connection with his 11 year old daughter (Ellen Fanning playing sweet).
You can see the film as either a romantic and obvious exploration of the theme, but you can also see it as a brutal exposition of the nothingness of the lifestyle; a sort of iron fist in a velvet glove approach. Long scenes - longer than we expect - of Johnny lying fully clothed on the bed watching twin-ish blonde pole dancers in his hotel room, for example, give us time to calibrate and assess what the filmmaker is showing us. Lots of meaningless, empty hours spent in hedonistic excess. Likewise the trip to Italy for a ridiculous award ceremony, where nobody comes off looking good.
The easy comforts of a Hollywood hotel used to pampering its guests, and the women who play this field give us a sense of the reality vacuum in which Johnny lives.
Coppola almost bores us with the tedium of Johnny's life, just to make the point that it's pointless. Stephen Dorff is suitably decadent, dishevelled and uncharismatic as the anti-hero representing all the bad-boy actors who learn too late and too hard that what they're looking for is right under their nose - not up it.
Somewhere isn't an easy film to enjoy because it sets out not to be entertaining. On the other hand, Coppola is massaging a highly relevant theme, and judging by the poetic, redemptive ending, she is clearly hopeful that human nature will overcome Hollywood nurture.
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CAST: Steven Dorff, Elle Fanning, Michelle Monaghan, Chris Pontius, Laura Ramsey, Robert Schwartzman, Eliza Coupe, Karissa Shannon, Kristina Shannon
PRODUCER: Sofia Coppola, G. Mac Brown, Roman Coppola
DIRECTOR: Sofia Coppola
SCRIPT: Sofia Coppola
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Harris Savides
EDITOR: Sarah Flack
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Anne Ross
RUNNING TIME: 98 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Universal
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: December 26, 2010