Somewhere, nowhere, everywhere...that's how Judge Roy Hrab rolls.
Our review of Somewhere (Blu-Ray), published April 19th, 2011, is also available.
Some equate silence with profundity. Others believe that slowly zooming away from a motionless person is sign of contemplative filmmaking. Some view any story about celebrity ennui as a worthy endeavour. Such are the people who enjoy Somewhere. Others see past such artifice and look for story, logic, consequential action, and character development. Such are the people who will not.
Facts of the Case
Johnny Marco (Stephen Dorff, Blade) is an actor enjoying all the trappings of celebrity: women, money, luxury, more women, booze, and various pills. Unfortunately, Johnny isn't taking pleasure from any of it. He is jaded and numb to it all. One day, his young daughter Cleo (Elle Fanning, Deja Vu) shows up at his room at the Chateau Marmot for an extended visit. Will she jar him out of his stupor?
The first scene of Somewhere sets the stage for everything that follows. A black Ferrari drives around and around and around in a circle. It's moving and spinning its wheels, but going nowhere. Most of the action is off-camera. After a few laps, Johnny gets out and stares off into the distance in silence. Deep, no?
The above is only meant to be partially sarcastic because there is nothing wrong with the opening scene per se. It's the fact that many proceeding scenes follow the same blueprint. For example, Johnny is staring off into space as a couple of strippers dance around his hotel room. A couple scenes later, he's doing almost the exact same thing. Was it necessary to show it twice?
During this time (the first fifteen minutes of the film) there is almost no dialogue spoken, and doesn't pick-up. Somewhere is filled with scenes shot in near silence without action, and the audience is expected to divine meaning from it, as well as somehow identify with Johnny.
Cleo eventually enters the scene and Coppola reveals a vacuous relationship between the two, plus a strained relationship between Johnny and Cleo's mother, though we never learn (nor are given hints) how this came to be. The two play some video games and Johnny takes her to ice skating lessons, yet there is no real interaction between the two. To underscore the weak link between father and daughter, Coppola has one of Johnny's friends ask Cleo all the questions a father should, while Johnny plays Guitar Hero oblivious to it all. It's a little heavy-handed, but one of the rare scenes that explicitly and clearly convey information about the story and these characters in a consequential way. It's a shame there aren't more scenes like it.
Without giving too much away, a "crisis" arises, requiring Johnny to act somewhat like a real parent (at least temporarily). However, unlike other recent and superior films about shallow people (Funny People, The Weather Man), Somewhere's minimal dialogue and lack of access to Johnny's thoughts makes it impossible to know whether anything is registering in his jaded brain. Coppola's conclusion makes it clear that her intention is to represent Johnny as a fundamentally changed man, but it doesn't wash because there's no evidence to substantiate the change. For all we know, what Johnny does in the end is something he may have done many times in the past. In fact, the very first scene can be interpreted as Johnny having failed to follow through with what he does at the end (or an earlier failure). And given that we're dealing with a celebrity protagonist, the more logical view is that Johnny will fall back into his old ways in short order. But the film insists this is not the case.
Thus, at its core, Sophia Coppola's Somewhere is a movie made by a Hollywood insider for fellow Hollywood insiders. Only that audience can identify with the characters and settings presented here. In less diplomatic terms, this is a shallow, self-importantm and pretentious movie that believes it contains insight and aesthetic merits.
The lack of dialogue (internal or external), expression, and meaningful action makes it futile to judge the performances. The script straitjackets them all. As a result, there can be no emotional connection between the audience and the actors. One can have no sympathy for Dorff's Johnny. He's an empty vessel. Like the story, the performances do not resonate.
In terms of presentation, the 1.85:1 anamorphic transfer appears strong with detailed visuals, but the colors are restrained. And while the Dolby 5.1 audio comes across as crisp and clear, the film has very little in the way of dialogue, sound effects, and sound track.
The only bonus feature is a "Making Somewhere" featurette, which is just as hollow as the film itself.
Somewhere is an empty collection of "artfully" framed scenes which believes it has something to say about the human experience. Devotees of Coppola's work will likely appreciate all the aspects of the film I dislike. On the other hand, there are many who will agree with my view of its petty nature (and Coppola's work in general). I guess we must agree to disagree.
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