Somewhere (Sofia Coppola, 2010)


Stephen Dorff (Johnny Marco), Elle Fanning (Cleo). Screenplay by Sofia Coppola. Directed by Sofia Coppola. Rating: 15. Running time: 97 minutes.

Yesterday, I knew nothing about Sofia Coppola, except that her father is Francis and her cousin Nicholas Cage. Then I watched Somewhere, and now I feel like I know her that little bit better. I can now say the following with certainty: she’s a fascinating, forty year old auteur in the most male-dominated of arts, and here she has made a film that gives clear signs of a bloody wicked sense of humour.

Somewhere oozes with the coolness of a woman totally in charge of taking the absolute piss out of Hollywood and the LA lifestyle. The target of the abuse is a fictionalised millionaire actor, Johnny Marco. He seems as capable of pulling birds as we can only assume George Clooney would be if he tried, but this guy’s life is undoubtedly infinitely duller. Like an animal, he shags everything he sees, and spends the rest of his time smoking cigarettes and drinking Corona, perhaps popping out only for a drive in his Ferrari. He’s a lousy excuse of a man, falling asleep in the middle of a private lap-dance he has paid to watch, and later nodding off in the middle of the giving of oral pleasure, for presumably the third of fourth time that day. Almost every woman he meets gives him a look that says ‘we fucked, once, and since you’ve treated me like shit.’ When Plato wrote two thousand years ago of the foolish man who indulged in the bodily pleasures, letting his appetite run wild and mistaking that for the good life, it was the likes of Johnny Marco he had in mind. What makes it worse is that not only can we discern the ridiculously boring and pathetic nature of his daily routine, but his eyes suggest he knows it too.

I must apologise, since I just made Somewhere sound like a drama, and yet Coppola’s aim isn’t to bludgeon us over the head with the message that the rich life sucks – that’s not her aim even in the slightest. When we watch Marco’s life, we are laughing. Laughing at how the camera stays rigidly still, watching him wait with white paste all over his face for an eternity, as the studios produce a mask for his next role; watching the lousy lap dances he sees, the first sending him to sleep and the second receiving a bizarre solo round of applause. The opening scene is of the Ferrari I mentioned being driven in desert land, and you’ll never be so bored by a loud engine in all your life.

The extremity of the film’s first half is set up as a stark contrast with what’s to follow – Marco, it turns out, has a daughter, and has to look after her for a few days. Again, turn your cliché alert off. This isn’t a smart-ass little kid who straightens out her misguided dad with annoying and farfetched knowledgable lines. She just does little things like quietly cooking a breakfast that seem to make Marco realise (off the screen, in his own head) what the hell he is missing in life.

Coppola is highly respectful of our ability to understand exactly what’s going on throughout Somewhere. Only in one scene does Marco become explicitly emotional about the quality of his life. The rest is left unsaid but blindingly obvious because of how carefully the scenes we see have been chosen. When Cleo goes off to camp, Marco goes driving, but all of a sudden pulls up, ditches his car in a dusty lay-by, presumably thinks ‘fuck it’ and starts walking off into the distance. Prophetic, perhaps, but a hugely enjoyable sign of liberation. Liberation, that is, from the preceding life we had just seen in such detail and laughed at, because of its financially-loaded but god-awful quality.

2 Responses to “Somewhere (Sofia Coppola, 2010)”

  1. 1 Academy awards: what will win and what should. « jacob williamson | thoughts on film
  2. 2 Lost in Translation (Sofia Coppola, 2003) « jacob williamson | thoughts on film

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