Film review by: Witney Seibold

Johnny Marco (Stephen Dorff) lives at the Chateau Marmont in Hollywood, and his life seems to have come to a standstill. He manages to sleep with many attractive, vapid young actresses, but they hardly register on his radar. He can afford twin strippers, but they are little more than a polite bedtime show for his to take in while he dozes off. He has a loud, expensive car, which he occasionally drives out to the desert where he can drive in small circles for hours. He is a professional actor, currently starring in an upcoming Hollywood blockbuster, but his co-star (Michelle Monaghan) seems to hate him. Occasionally, he receives mysterious text messages on his telephone accusing him of being an asshole. It’s never made clear from whom these messages are coming from.


Sofia Coppola’s newest film, like her previous three, is another leisurely meditation on heartbreaking, quiet, almost unregisterable loneliness. This time, however, she turns her camera on the L.A. locals, and seems to be reminiscing about the hotels and empty luxury, and “wild” life she herself used to lead. Some complain that any film about the ennui of the rich is not worthy of attention because privileged people don’t suffer in the same way that the average person does. “Somewhere” proves that wealth can create a bubble of solitude that can erase who you are. Johnny Marco weepily comments at one point that he is nobody. He does not have the wherewithal, the energy, or the imagination to be anything.

“Somewhere” may frustrate many viewers. This, like all of Coppola’s films, is more of a mood piece than it is a plot-driven story about action and happenstance. Johnny goes to parties, but they hardly register. He has sex, but it’s largely meaningless, and, often, only serves to barricade him from being close to the people who like him. The largest presence in his life is his daughter Cleo (Elle Fanning), whom he cares for a great deal, but for whom he can’t give up his bad habits of alienation.


Cleo is a very smart girl who loves her father a great deal. She loves that she has access to his money, but, more than that, loves spending time with him. She makes amazing poached eggs. She is an aspiring ice skater, and a long scene is devoted to her routine. We get the sense that Cleo is at risk; her (absent) mother doesn’t seem to look after her, and dad’s hedonistic lifestyle always threatens to damage her. In one scene in particular, Cleo plays video games with one of Johnny’s friends, and he says some pretty untoward sexual things around her.

Johnny is at a wall. He wants to do good, but doesn’t know how. All he knows is to spoil and pamper while he slowly ages away under himself. When his daughter needs him, and cries that he may be vanishing from her life, his first thought is to go to Las Vegas. He makes no impact on the people around him. He is a non-entity.


He has one poignant moment midway through the film when he is put in age makeup for a film he’s working on. He stares at himself in the mirror. He’s easily looking at his unwanted future.


As a quiet poem to L.A., “Somewhere” is quietly damning. There locations are all real and genuine (I’m an L.A. native, so I recognized all the freeway onramps), but Coppola has no sentiment for what we’re looking at. There is a hazy, halcyon attachment to L.A., but there’s no current-day affection. L.A. offers you everything in terms of opportunity, but doesn’t offer anything in terms of character or ideas on how to live well. It is the ambivalence of availability; once everything is available to you, you don’t know what to do.


I liked the film a lot. It was quiet and kind of heartbreaking. It was a paean to identity. Tragic, yet deeply satisfying. “Somewhere” is one to seek out.

Published in: on February 18, 2011 at 5:48 pm  Leave a Comment  

The URI to TrackBack this entry is:

RSS feed for comments on this post.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: