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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