Comments on watching and making films.

Saturday, January 1, 2011


Sofia Coppola has taken a significant break from filmmaking after 2006's Marie Antoinette, which received mixed reviews, seeming to mostly lean to the negative, but it's not as though she wasn't busy - She started a family in France with her partner, Thomas Mars, lead singer of the french band Phoenix. But, Coppola now returns to the big screen with Somewhere.

The film stars Stephen Dorff as Johnny Marco, an in-demand Hollywood movie star, who spends his time between films living at the infamous Chateau Marmont, a high class hotel on Sunset Boulevard, frequented by movie stars, models, and other movers and shakers. His life is filled with parties, strippers, and Guitar Hero. When his daughter is dropped off by her mother (who's relationship with Marco is never detailed. Were they married? or just together? or even a one night stand?), Marco has to switch into full time parent mode, something he's never had to do before. It's awkward, and he spends his time trying to figure out how to balance the life of a single movie star, a responsible parent, and trying to be "fun". Through this, fairly sudden, time spent with Cleo (played by Elle Fanning), his compass begins to orient itself and he begins to figure out who he really is.

Stephen Dorff is, to me, an odd choice for this role. While his star has shown at various points in time, it seems that there are considerably more men who would be better suited for the role, but Dorff makes you believe he is Johnny Marco, so he's obviously doing something right. Elle Fanning is fantastic as Cleo, a young woman who is cheerful, bright eyed, interested in the world around her, but instinctual about the good and bad that is going on around her. Chris Pontius (of Jackass) shows up as Marco's good buddy, and doesn't seem out of place. Could he be following fellow Jackass alum Johnny Knoxville into acting?

Coppola focuses her lens on some of the everyday moments of Marco, and, while those moments are not representative of 99% of the population (fashion shoots going on down the hall from his suite, traveling to Italy for an awards show, and one hilarious moment when he comes home with Cleo to find a naked woman waiting for him in his bed, asks her to leave, and slips Cleo out for a cheeseburger before the two see each other), she brings to light a world that most of us will never see, and that's what makes Somewhere interesting. Coppola and cinematographer Harris Savides use, mostly, natural lighting to capture the story of father and daughter, and gives the whole film a certain cinematic beauty that is shared with Lance Acord's cinematography in her previous efforts Lost In Translation and Marie Antoinette and even Edward Lachman's cinematography in her debut feature The Virgin Suicides.

There's a lot of complaints right now about the fact that the film is very reminiscent of Lost In Translation, which, I won't deny, it can be on a very basic level. But the previous film was more about not being able to communicate with the people around you, and finding friendship with someone regardless of that. This film is about someone finding a greater purpose than themselves. When Marco realizes that living for his daughter means more to him than living for himself, he is on the road to becoming whole again. For those who try to break the two films down to "a Hollywood star in a hotel trying to find himself", I would say that they are looking on the very smallest surface of the two films and, obviously, just didn't get it.

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