"Somewhere" opens with a lone Ferrari speeding round and round a dirt track. Not just once or twice either. It just keeps driving. And we just keep watching it. Because we have no choice.
Eventually the car's driver emerges, an unshaven shaggy-haired guy we later learn is a Hollywood actor named Johnny Marco. For what I'd estimate is at least 25 minutes, we observe Johnny going about his life with precious little dialogue to interrupt the tedium. We watch him drunkenly falling down a flight of stairs after a night of partying with his entourage. We join him as he lies in his hotel bed, disinterestedly watching an entire pole dancing routine being performed by nubile young twins in candy striper outfits. We see him fake-smile through a photo session with the leading lady of his recently completed movie and then mumble a few incoherent answers at a press conference. Before long, the twins are back with their portable poles and boom box but this time wearing tennis outfits.
I'm not opposed to films which open slowly with a lot of mood-setting, character-defining scenes before the plot kicks in, but the beginning of "Somewhere" is almost infuriating to sit through. It's as if director Sofia Coppola is testing the audience to see just how long they're willing to watch a car drive around a dirt track before they start booing or asking for their money back. And the pole dances - I suppose maybe if I were a guy, I'd get some sort of enjoyment out of watching two extended pole dances instead of the movie I'd come to see, but for me they just prompted a lot of looking at my watch and maybe an audible sigh or two.
In one scene, Johnny sits silently on the couch drinking beer out of a can. No music. No TV. Just staring into space. Later, he has a mask made for an upcoming film. Layer after layer of white goop is applied to his face until it's completely covered, save for two tiny nostril holes. The camera lingers as he sits motionless in the room waiting for the plaster to set. It's like watching paint dry. Literally.
Johnny is bored. I get it, already. He's bored and he's boring. He's a rich, good-looking guy with no discernible personality or interests. He drinks and he smokes and he sleeps with lots of beautiful women and he drives a Ferrari but nothing excites him. He's ennui personified. He needs someone to put the "whee" back into his ennui. The most likely candidate is his charming 11-year-old daughter, Cleo (Elle Fanning), whose appearance about thirty minutes into the film gave me hope that perhaps the movie's establishing-that-Johnny-is-a-world-weary-loser phase was over.
Johnny takes Cleo to her ice skating lesson. Cleo skates. Johnny watches Cleo skate. We watch Cleo skate. We watch Johnny watching Cleo skate. My god, it's happening again. I'm being forced to watch an entire amateur ice skating routine performed by some kid who's not even one of my relatives. It's like the pole dancing scene all over again but with ice instead of poles and adolescent purity instead of smut.
When the camera cuts to Johnny's face, I try to guess what he's thinking. Actually, I try to guess what Coppola wants us to think that Johnny is thinking. Maybe something about the objectification of women and how the young pole dancing twins are somebody's daughters too and how maybe he wished Cleo would wear less skimpy ice skating outfits to avoid being ogled by lecherous men such as himself. But I really have no idea if this is what I'm supposed to be thinking that Johnny is thinking. Maybe I'm not supposed to be thinking he's thinking anything, but there must be some reason Coppola sees fit to show us Cleo's entire ice skating routine. Surely it's not to evaluate her lutzes and axels.
Cleo's next visit is unexpected. Her mother calls to say she needs some time alone, or some such ambiguous expression of the sort that movie parents always use right before they disappear forever. Johnny is about to leave on a promotional trip to Italy, so he decides to bring Cleo along. The audience tags along too, hoping that maybe Johnny and Cleo will bond over the en suite swimming pool or room service gelato and give some meaning to his pathetically empty life. Not that I actually gave a damn about Johnny; it was only poor Cleo I cared about.
As I walked out of the theater, I overheard an old guy saying that "that was the worst movie I've ever seen in my life". I wouldn't go quite that far but I did find it extremely self-indulgent on Coppola's part. I mean, you can't just point your camera at things and expect the audience to make up their own stories. Well, obviously you can, but not if you expect them to actually care about your characters. Or like your movie. Or not think it's a pretentious bore.
I'd been really looking forward to "Somewhere" and rushed out to see it as soon as it opened so as to avoid being exposed to anything that might spoil it for me. Unfortunately, it spoiled itself by being such a huge disappointment. As I left the theater, I felt almost angry. I'm not sure why exactly, but I think it's the fact that so many critics whose opinions I'd relied on apparently bought into the idea that eschewing such niceties as dialogue and character development in exchange for long, meandering time-filling shots of nothing is somehow artistic.
Now I realize that describing a film as "minimalist" is just a fancy way of saying that there's really not a whole lot there.
***1/2 out of **** I read reviews for "Somewhere" that often ranged from discouraging to high-praise. It makes me worry when I find a film such as this one; a film which some love, and some just plain hate. But I had to see it. It was directed by Sophia Coppola, who made "Lost in Translation"; one of my favorite films. "Somewhere" does not come anywhere near the quality and sweet sentimentality of "Lost in Translation", but as a follow-up to the equally-as-whimsical "Marie … more
“Somewhere” opens on a long, long shot of a Ferrari going solo around a racetrack, over and over again. This is both the central metaphor for the film – it’s about a youngish movie star going nowhere, but doing it in style and with power – and the stylistic template for the movie. The scene says to us, “we are going to watch a lot of things happen for longer than we need to watch them happen. The director’s doing this on purpose. Brace … more
Sofia Coppola’s “Somewhere” opens with a drawn out shot of a lonely desert road. A black sports car zooms into view, turns a corner, disappears, and after a few seconds, reappears and does the same thing over again. The driver is traveling in circles. This symbolically introduces us to Johnny Marco (Stephen Dorff), a Hollywood actor living a life that goes nowhere other than back in on itself. Holed up in a room in West Hollywood’s Chateau Marmont, we find a man who drinks … more
SOMEWHERE Written and Directed by Sofia Coppola Starring Stephen Dorff and Elle Fanning Johnny Marco: I’m fucking nothing. I’m not even a person. We are all somewhere. Even nowhere is another form of somewhere, which is good because there is an awful lot of nowhere and nothing going on in Sofia Coppola’s latest attempt at exploring just how mundane life can be, called SOMEWHERE. … more
You have probably seen him in the tabloids; Johnny is living at the legendary Chateau Marmont hotel in Hollywood. He has a Ferrari to drive around in, and a constant stream of girls and pills to stay in with. Comfortably numbed, Johnny drifts along. Then, his 11-year-old daughter Cleo (Elle Fanning) from his failed marriage arrives unexpectedly at the Chateau. Their encounters encourage Johnny to face up to where he is in life and confront the question that we all must: which path in life will you take?