Somewhere Review

(1 STAR)

Somewhere is a very inaccurate title for Sofia Coppola’s latest film for it begins nowhere, goes nowhere, and ends nowhere. I’d love to sit down with the director and ask her why she felt this was a necessary film to make because after sitting through nearly two hours of just nothingness, I can’t see the point. Nearly twenty minutes go by before the film’s lead character even says something, and before something “meaningful” happens, we’ve sat through almost 45 minutes of excruciatingly dull minutiae. The fantastic trailer for the film indicated something quiet and contemplative. While it’s not necessarily false advertising, I did expect SOMETHING to happen in this film. But it doesn’t. We’re just left waiting, and boy is it a long, boring wait.

Johnny Marco (Stephen Dorff) is a successful B-movie star (in the vein of, say, a Jason Statham) who’s feeling lost. He spends most of his time driving his Ferrari, smoking, drinking, having sex, and generally being a bit of a douche. The main source of light in his life is Cleo (Elle Fanning), his 11-year-old daughter, whom he spends only a token amount of time with. But when Cleo’s mother up and leaves her, Johnny’s in charge, so he takes Cleo to Milan, hoping to connect with her more. The two grow closer, but with her departure for summer camp imminent, Johnny is left wondering what’s next.

My problems with the film are seemingly endless. I hated Coppola’s minimalist approach. I’ve read comparisons of this film to Anton Corbijn’s great character study The American, but in that film, the style served a purpose. Here, it felt like style of style’s sake. Minimalism is inherently obtrusive because it’s typically easy to spot and generally keeps the viewer at an arm’s length from the characters. This film could’ve used some kind of emotional connection to the characters, but there’s just nothing. Nothing, nothing, nothing. I blame that on Coppola’s misguided technique.

I thought the film’s acting was weak. Stephen Dorff (who, to be fair, I’m completely unfamiliar with) sleepwalks his way through the role. If Dorff is a charismatic man in real life, he successfully(?) hides any hint of it in this part. Johnny is an aloof individual who—as we find out near the end of the film—is ready to grow up, but appears either too lazy or too soft-minded to do so. Not once does he tell his daughter he loves her. And when told of his subpar parenting, he doesn’t even have the guts to give an honest apology. Instead, he tries to shout over the sounds of a helicopter. Nice one, Johnny.

Elle Fanning is the film’s only saving grace (if you could say a film this bad has one). She was made for the movies, and the camera lights up whenever she’s onscreen. Had the movie followed Cleo instead of her deadbeat dad, it might have been watchable.

The film’s screenplay is another source of major contention. It’s just all over the place. One scene—in which Johnny gets a massage from a nude man—rings so false it made me cringe. Another—in which Johnny tearfully admits his shortcomings—could have been meaningful if it didn’t come out of left field and wasn’t followed by a few scenes in which Johnny appears to no longer feel the same way. It was as if to say, “I’m worthless. I’m nothing. Help me! But until you get here, I’ll be chilling in the pool, sipping a cocktail.”

I hate when I feel like a film has just completely wasted my time (even I’m Still Here, as awful as it was, didn’t feel this way), but that’s what Somewhere made me feel. It lost me very early on (probably around the 25/30-minute mark, after sitting through the second full-length PG-13 stripper routine), and appeared to only get worse as the running time went on and on and on. After a promising start to her career with The Virgin Suicides and Lost in Translation, Coppola has struck out big time with Marie Antoinette and, now, Somewhere. I didn’t think anything the young woman did could be as bad as her acting in The Godfather: Part III, but her direction of Somewhere comes close. This is just a major disappointment and a dreadful film.

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