24 December 2010

Review: "Somewhere"

Sofia Coppola's Somewhere may be the film that surprised me most this year. The trailer reveals nothing except a man and his relationship with his daughter and I assumed that the film would delve much deeper into the characters and their relationship. I was wrong, the film is decidedly simple in its delivery. Yet while Somewhere features limited dialogue and long shots of an introspective Stephen Dorff, the film has an extraordinary emotional profundity. Some had made comparisons between Somewhere and Coppola's most successful film, Lost in Translation (2003), but I felt a stronger connection to her first film, The Virgin Suicides (1999), because of the emotional complexities. Sofia Coppola has tried with great success to find her own distinct cinematic voice without drawing comparisons to her father, whose Godfather trilogy is amongst the most revered films in American cinema. She has demonstrated a great gift for exploring characters and their emotional dilemmas. Somewhere is a film about a famous actor who has grown tired of his vacuous life. A transformation begins when his daughter arrives for an extended visit. So much of the film hinges on Stephen Dorff's facial expressions and the way Sofia Coppola's camera lingers on him. Stephen Dorff and Elle Fanning thrive in roles that allow them to act from the inside out. Somewhere is a richly complex and beautifully shot film that flows with a melodic rhythm that left me spellbound.

Johnny Marco (Dorff) is a successful actor who lives at the Chateau Marmont, a hotel in West Hollywood known for its privacy and celebrities. He has few responsibilities. He spends his time driving around in his Ferrari and hiring two blond women to perform pole dances in his room. The film focuses a great deal on Stephen Dorff's eyes and his inner turmoil. He is unhappy, yet there is little evidence of drug or alcohol addiction. He uses women to numb the monotony. He has an eleven year old daughter Cleo (Fanning) from a failed marriage. Johnny has been a presence in Cleo's life but the two have never had a relationship. He takes her to a figure skating practice and has no idea she has been doing it for three years. Johnny is then informed that Cleo's mother is going on an extended trip. She wants him to make sure Cleo gets to summer camp. The problem is that Johnny has a commitment in Milan before Cleo is due at camp. The trip to Italy is a turning point for Johnny and his relationship with his daughter. This is when he must decide whether he wants to continue to drift along in life or if he is ready to make some major changes.

Somewhere premiered at the Venice Film Festival in September and won the prestigious Golden Lion amid much controversy. The head of the jury, Quentin Tarantino, once had a relationship with Sofia Coppola and many viewed the surprising award as favoritism. Unfortunately for all the naysayers, Somewhere is an incredible film that is drenched in sunlight. The lush and bright colours, like the official poster, drench the film in such warmth that are stunningly beautiful. Sofia Coppola demonstrates great control as a director and the film flows with such great ease. Stephen Dorff spends much of his time in the film without speaking. It shows a great maturity from actor and director to have such confidence in each other. I have never seen Stephen Dorff give such a richly complex performance and I was mesmerized by his talent on screen. So much of the role depends on an unspoken connection between actor and audience and I did not expect to be so emotionally invested in character who spends the majority of the film looking directly into the camera silently. Sofia Coppola's Somewhere is as beautifully photographed as it is acted. The beauty and emotional depth of the film exist in the quiet moments when Stephen Dorff is given the freedom to act and connect with the viewer.

My rating: 4 stars out of 4.


  1. So glad you liked this. I think you're quite right about Dorff's performance. Loved, loved, loved the ice-skating scene!

    Merry Christmas!

  2. I agree, that was one of my favourite scenes from the film! I had read an interview with Stephen Dorff in regards to working with Sofia Coppola and he talked about the trust needed to perform with such little dialogue. I wish I could find it again.

    Merry Christmas to you too!