In 2010 we've been put through the wringer: mind-bending dream puzzles, hikers who saw their arms off, ozark's girls who saw dead peoples arms off, and ballerinas that turn into psychotic swans. Awards season has been a bit of an endurance test to say the least. But writer/director Sofia Coppola is here to remind us that fall contenders needn't be meaty and rigorous affairs. There is a place for the gentle in the realm of respected cinema. There is a place for little stories about fathers and daughters - a place for Ms. Coppola, and her film, Somewhere.
But Somewhere isn't for everyone. It moves at an introspective dawdle - savoring moments with brave intensity - as it examines the everyday life of rutted movie star Johnny Marco (Stephen Dorff). And I mean everyday: like driving his Ferrari in circles, enduring languid makeup tests, and sitting around blase - a bit unfazed by the world around him. Marco's malaise is a bit reminiscent of actor Bob Harris' in Coppola's own Lost In Translation and his day-to-day is something like Entourage if you take away all the gloss, over-dramatics, and obnoxious self-satisfaction. At any rate, with his ex-wife away, down-in-the-dumps Marco gets shackled with his sweet-as-can-be prepubescent daughter Cleo (Elle Fanning). A few days together and Marco starts to reassess his priorities - his daughter is a symbol of the normality and fervid essence that so eludes him in his rolling-stone/hedonistic lifestyle.
The screenplay is written straight from Coppola's own roots. She grew up a Hollywood princess after all, the daughter of Francis Ford. But Coppola's insider Hollywood scoop is neither straight indictment nor glorification. With camera trained on the mundane, Tinseltown becomes a moody limbo where the extravagant is bereft and the ordinary transcendent: Guitar Hero, room service, sunbathing. Not that Marco and Cleo don't get star treatment, only it's perfunctory. So what's Coppola's angle? Her films often concern lonely and confused individuals in an equally confusing world. But when stripped down, Somewhere is a sweet and simple sonnet about a daughter who would love her father if he had a million dollars or five, drove a Ferrari or a Taurus, was a star or a busboy. And only after he understands that can he really be free. And typically, Coppola's sentiment is delicately stroked in, stone dry of sap. (A welcome change of pace). Maybe if she avoided the indulgences (five minutes of innocuous pole-dancing, anyone?) and if her lead wasn't buckling under the weight of his role, then her spotlight-as-microscope, A-lister-ode could've been more than just good. But it does get bonus points; no limbs were grotesquely sawed off.