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SOMEWHERE

GEMMA DE CRUZ:  Does being a big Hollywood star make you happy? This question resounds throughout Sofia Coppola’s Somewhere. The film follows a few weeks in the life of actor Johnny Marco (Stephen Dorff) who, from the clues we’re given, is on a par with Brad Pitt.  In between filming he’s living at the Chateau Marmont hotel on the Sunset Strip where his time is divided between occasional film promo, shagging, watching twin pole dancers and little else. The hotel is used as a character in itself: a vessel for the rich and famous passing through, It doesn’t so much symbolise a particular lifestyle but rather the gilded emptiness of what that lifestyle brings. It’s an imposing, decadent replica of a real chateau (in the Loire Valley), soaked in celebrity and dripping with glamour but at the same time it is, by definition, a fake.

Somewhere doesn’t follow a conventional narrative; instead we are given glimpses of Marco’s day-to-day activities, not in a reality TV kind of way, but through a rolling sequence of scenes that build inexorably into a picture of his state of mind. The film begins with Marco driving his sportscar around in circles; it might be a cheesy metaphor, (for being lost), but  (without giving it away) also ties up with the ‘happy-ish’ ending. 

Coppola develops Marco’s character through the behind the ‘scenes’ scenes.  Awkward conversations and situations, vacuous relationships, back biting, sycophancy…  Then, one morning, Marco wakes up to find his daughter, Cleo (Elle Fanning), sitting on his bed - literally a ray of sunshine.  He takes her ice-skating and as she begins an impressively seamless routine, her dad is indolently checking his phone, but becomes transfixed as Cleo transforms from 11-year-old child to an elegant, poised beauty. Afterwards he asks her when she started ice-skating; “three years ago” she replies. We don’t know if Marco hasn’t seen her for three years or hasn’t previously taken an interest.  Their relationship appears to begin at this moment and Cleo returns a few days later for an a longer unplanned stay with her dad.  This is the only relationship that Marco seems able to fully engage in he shields her from the paparazzi and adoring females while Cleo cooks for him and basically brings a sense of normality into his life.

Coppola lingers over particular scenes, allowing more detail than you expect, it’s disconcerting – as if too much has been left in edit but it’s the way in which these extended scenes slot together that makes the film so poetic. Coppola dwells on the sadness of the classic celebrity dichotomy – to be adored by everyone but completely alone and to then be ‘brought back to earth’ through simple everyday occurrences such as being cooked for, watching TV in bed, the car breaking down. Of course, this film  echoes Lost In Translation – successful but numb guy, living in a hotel, encounters a young, impressionable girl and ‘finds’ himself again.  But, the ‘love’ in Somewhere is more plausible as for Cleo it’s unconditional, which provides an antidote to everything that’s wrong with Marco’s life. There’s a hint of autobiography in the famous father/daughter filmworld relationship, but at the same time the emotions that are explored are wholly transferable to anybody who’s struggling with where their life is going.

 

 

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