Dir: Sofia Coppola

Rating: 2.0/5.0

Focus Features

97 Minutes

In 2003, Sofia Coppola won over audiences with her sophomore feature Lost in Translation. Featuring a winning performance by Bill Murray and star making turn by Scarlett Johansson, her story of two lonely people who connect in the disconnected reality of Tokyo hit all the right notes, vaulting the director into A-list territory that even her father hadn’t enjoyed in many years. Three years later, she followed Translation with Marie Antoinette, a love it or hate it re-imagining of title character living the life akin to a modern celebrity. With Somewhere, Coppola makes her message clear: being a star is not as great as Hollywood makes it seem. In fact, it makes it nearly impossible to truly connect with anyone.

The film begins with a fixed shot of a track and we see a black Ferrari doing laps. However, we can only glimpse one quarter of the track as the car is maddeningly off screen for most its revolutions. After nearly two minutes of this fixed position, the car stops and out steps Johnny Marco (Stephen Dorff in a career resurrecting performance). He’s a star. He likes to party. Women throw themselves at him. Coppola then spends the next hour and a half driving this message home.

Where Lost in Translation found Murray and Johansson stranded in Tokyo, Somewhere finds Johnny Marco hidden within West Hollywood’s Chateau Marmont, an earthquake proof hotel where the members of Led Zeppelin rode their motorcycles through the lobby and John Belushi overdosed in the garden. Almost immediately after the movie begins, Johnny breaks his arm at a party and spends his recovery pouting around the hotel. Even pole-dancing stripper twins can’t seem to shake poor Johnny’s ennui.

Much like Bill Murray’s Bob Harris, the big question that seems to be hanging over Johnny throughout the film is, “Where the fuck am I? And how the fuck did I get myself here in the first place?” Johnny’s days are filled with rote Hollywood minutiae: setting in the makeup chair while makeup artists apply layers of aging makeup, being dragging to press conferences by his press people, receiving angry texts messages from unknown senders, but presumably women he’s loved and forgotten. It’s not like sex can even turn on poor Johnny anymore. In one scene, he even falls asleep while performing cunnilingus.

Coppola attempts to replicate a similar relationship to the Murray-Johansson one in Lost in Translation when Johnny must watch his daughter Cleo (Elle Fanning) while her mother is gone somewhere. Cleo is the only person with whom Johnny has a true relationship. During his extended time caring for Cleo, Johnny begins to break out of the dead-eyed routine of his life. Unfortunately, Coppola decides to finish the relationship the same way she ends the one in Lost in Translation. As Cleo climbs into a helicopter ready to spirit her away to summer camp (this is a film about the privileged), Johnny shouts something to her that is obscured by the whirring blades. We cannot hear what Johnny is shouting, and this time neither can Cleo.

So is Somewhere nothing more than Lost in Translation lite? Coppola is playing with the same elements here, examining the utter vapidity of stardom, deconstructing the life of a celebrity as an insider, tearing down the notions of glamour and excitement and replacing them with long stretches of lonely nothingness. However, a director can make a slow movie where very little happens and still create a riveting film. Aside from Fanning’s performance, which feels organic and alive, especially when juxtaposed with the miasma of boredom that takes place around it, Somewhere is a lifeless exercise of routine and repression.

It is impossible to accuse Coppola of being a product of nepotism, especially with so many accomplished films under her belt, but with Somewhere, she appears stuck in a rut, still railing against her critics that her life of privilege was not exciting or particularly better than ours. The problems presented in Somewhere, however, do not exist for most people with no money, people without privilege. It’s lonely at the top, Coppola says, looking down from a castle on a hill. Even here among the baubles and fake breasts, we hurt too.

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