I am inclined to describe Sofia Coppola’s Somewhere—her tediously artsy depiction of a bored movie star—as self-indulgent, but that would suggest there are pleasures to be found in the movie, even if only by the director. There are no pleasures though. This is a movie of long takes, simply framed and static shots, very little dialogue, and even less narrative. In short, nothing really happens. The film’s austerity would suggest an ascetic quality, but, again, it is too idle to be truly ascetic. Perhaps boring is the only description I can firmly attach to the film.
Indulging in restraint, Coppola has pushed her minimalism—which worked perfectly in her Tokyo-set travel drama Lost in Translation (2003)—past its limit to the point of tedium. The resulting film is sterile, empty, and vague. The few things Coppola does well here, she already did better in her previous work. Marie Antoinette (2006) was a much more entertaining, biting, and involving depiction of the emptiness of the idle rich (even if it left me otherwise unsatisfied). Disconnection and boredom were more deeply and thoroughly explored in Lost in Translation, thanks in part to Bill Murray. Bill Murray’s weary, almost blank face is a thousand times more interesting than Stephen Dorff’s wearisome blank face. We can’t lay too much blame on Dorff though. He’s given nothing to do but stare. We also just stare, mostly at Dorff, but sometimes we get to stare at what Dorff is staring at.
The only time the film really says something is during the overtly meaningful opening and final scenes. At the beginning of the film our weary hedonist movie star, Johnny Marco (Dorff), literally drives in circles for a few minutes, off and then back onto the screen, again and again, in one long, stationary shot. At the end, he drives his Ferrari for a while down highways and country roads only to finally stop, get out of his car, and walk decisively forward. These moments play not like the brilliant touches of a talented director (like the whisper at the end of Lost in Translation), but like basic narrative and thematic techniques taught early on in film school (not my thought: a coworker cautioned me about the beginning/ending prior to watching). The beginning and ending are more interestingly read in relation to Sofia Coppola’s own career, for sadly she is not marching forward with each new film. She’s just going in circles.
4 out of 10
Somewhere (USA, 2010)
Written and directed by Sofia Coppola; starring Stephen Dorff and Elle Fanning.