Sunday, January 16, 2011

quiet masterwork

Unorthodox and strangely, wondrously soothing, Sofia Coppola's "Somethere" is the great American film of 2010 that got away. After making something of a splash at the Venice Film Festival, the film was pretty much abandoned, an orphan at the mercy of indifferent hands.

None of this is surprising - neither its success at Venice, where it won the Golden Lion, or its invisibility on the American movie circuit.

The film is very European, in both its temperament and the languid way in which it moves. There's a reason why a precious few film critics have astutely compared Coppola's work here to Antonioni's.

The plotline is a matter of not being what you think it is.

Superficially, it's about the day-to-day life of Johnny Marco (Stephen Dorff) who, by turns, is either Brad Pitt or Charlie Sheen (take your pick) as he goes through the deadening paces of being a modern movie star.

Right now, Johnny - who lives at the Charteau Marmont - is doing promotion for his latest film. The ennui is so strong that even nightly visits by pole dancers don't bring him much happiness. He usually smiles at them, half-heartedly, and then falls asleep. Yes, he's going somewhere.

Nowhere, to be exact.

Turns out, Johnny is - surprisingly - a father. He has an 11-year-old daughter, Cleo (Elle Fanning), who is plopped into his joyless life and becomes his unexpected companion, accompaying him to movie functions or on impromptu outings in his Ferrari. A tiny road film ensues.

Dorff is wonderful in a near-wordless performance as he floats through the Hollywood landscape and, along the way, tackles remarkably serious matters for his director about getting through life, parenting and responsibility. Like its star, the movie makes its points without pushing or sweating or underlining those very points. It's lovely and, yes, loopy.

Yes, much like Johnny himself.


Alex said...

Sorry, but if I ever want to commit suicide by boredom, I'll rent this film.

ellie c. said...

This was an interesting article. Am looking forward to seeing "Somewhere."

Gerry said...

Especially connected with Sofia Coppola's "Somewhere" post--we played it at the theater where I work, and it was overlooked, for the most part. We tried promoting the heck out of it, because the people who loved it really loved it, but it fell through the cracks, and we ended up holding it about a week or two longer than we should have from a purely financial standpoint. We tried!