Diehard Coppola fans will appreciate “Somewhere.” This critic found it frustrating and going nowhere. It’s not so much the glacial pace or the extremely long takes that are at fault. After all, Antonioni and others successfully pulled off the same kind of stunt for almost decades. Nor the simpatico performance by Stephen Dorff playing a famous but washed-out star, Johnny Marco, devoid of any semblance of interior or exterior life. Nor the inspired cinematography by Harris Savides. Nor the finely observed celebrity life, complete with entourage and assorted hangers-on, that Sofia Coppola has grown up in herself. Nor the casual sexual encounters, the pointlessness of Johnny Marco’s life. The absence of narrative is not the problem either.
Stream of consciousness or existential plays and movies have accustomed us to nothing much happening for long periods of time, if at all. So what makes the whole exercise seem both awkward and futile? I would venture that the addition of Elle Fanning whose acting has been praised to high heaven is what caused me to never feel involved in this curious film. Marco spends time with his eleven-year old daughter (we are told by critics that she was indeed eleven at the time of filming but she looks much older) which must have made more than one person uncomfortable with her neither-here-nor-there flirtation with both her father and his friend often part of the trio in their Chateau Marmont digs.
I found the actress bland and certainly not enough of a child for her to share a bed with her father both in the absurdly kitsch and huge private suite in the hotel in Milano (complete with private swimming pool and hot bath) and in their more modest Hollywood apartment. Nor does she have enough childish spontaneity to uplift this deadweight of a movie that drags on to a lame ending when Marco becomes conscious that he is nothing, as he says, and that his life is nothing.
Coppola who often looks toward European cinema for expressing herself as she has through “Lost in Translation,” or “Marie-Antoinette,” should have studied more closely masterpieces such as Fellini’s “81/2” or Pasolini’s “Teorema,” also riffs on hollow lives. An actual European movie circa 1964, heavy on thought and light on action, would have avoided the father-daughter relation altogether. I know, anathema to viewers and the director herself who see it as the whole point but that’s just it. There’s no point in a life like Johnny Marco’s and that could have been driven home more forcefully without the extraneous Hollywoody stuff—child custody, quality time with family, etc.
As it is, “Somewhere” leaves us as empty as Marco, with the added creepiness factor.