LOST & FOUND: 'Somewhere' puts Sofia Coppola's insider knowledge to good use
BY SEAMES O'GRADYsogrady@tylerpaper.com
Writer and director Sofia Coppola knows a thing or two about living out of hotel rooms.
Being the daughter of one of the great American film directors, Francis Ford Coppola, it is to be believed she has lived a rarified life, and she has spent more of her life observing the lives behind the cameras than she has spent making movies.
She knows the parts of Hollywood that would never make it on TMZ.
This is why "Somewhere" was an inevitable film for her to have made.
"Somewhere" (2010) tells the story (use of the word "story" is in its loosest definition) of Johnny Marco (Stephen Dorff) whose recently become a famous actor as he languishes in the Hollywood opulence of the Chateau Marmont, a storied retreat on the Sunset Strip.
Johnny's stress-free life includes driving his Ferrari, drinking beer, taking pills, having casual sex and watching twin sister strippers pole dance in his room.
Being an actor seems to come very easily to Johnny and he's more comfortable as an actor but struggles with the job of being a movie star -- photo shoots, press junkets and award shows.
His existence is interrupted by his ex-wife's unexplained breakdown, leaving their 11-year-old daughter, Cleo (Elle Fanning), in Johnny's care. He is an absent but loving father.
Cleo has more knowledge than her years suggest, but she also is a wide-eyed and adoring daughter.
Coppola starts "Somewhere" with a lengthy and static shot of a black Ferrari driving on a road-course track going in and out of frame -- the car engine's whine and roar rising and falling. This shot sets the tone and pacing of the film. Take it slow; this isn't "Transformers." The opening shot also sets an underlying theme for the film: You're spinning your wheels.
Coppola populates "Somewhere" with beautiful settings photographed beautifully.
Dorff and Fanning give good performances.
The finest point is when Johnny and Cleo are in Milan, Italy for an award show. Johnny reunites with a recent lover, Sylvia (Laura Chiatti), he has been ignoring and invites her to his suite, which Johnny is sharing with Cleo, for an overnight tryst.
The next morning while eating room-service breakfast, a silent Cleo, sitting with Johnny and Sylvia, stares down her dad with such magnificent disapproval.
Watching "Somewhere" is worth it just to see that part of Fanning's amazing performance.
"Somewhere" is not a film that gives great revelations, but accurate observations of living in the Hollywood realm. While "Somewhere" ends on an ambiguous note, it seems to contradict Johnny's departing words to Cleo.
The pacing can be taxing, but once you allow yourself to go along for the ride, "Somewhere" will not steer you in a wrong direction.
"Lost & Found" is a weekly column and review of films Staff Writer Seames O'Grady, self-professed movie expert, has in his DVD collection or on his Netflix queue but just hasn't got around to watching until now.