Hotel rooms. Celebrity ennui. Father-daughter relationships… Sophia Coppola’s Somewhere veers decidedly close to her portrait of the rich, famous, and depressed in her revered Lost in Translation. Here, we follow Johnny Marco, a rising Hollywood star who is resigned to boredom and loneliness in the glamorous world of five-star hotels, Ferraris, film premiers, and beautiful women. Marco (Stephen Dorff) is checked into a veritable Hotel California – “you can check out anytime you like, but you can never leave” – in the form of the infamous Chateau Marmont, where he drifts as comfortably through his opulent and meaningless life, as he does on his inflatable in the Hockney-esque pool. It is only when his 11 year old daughter, Cleo (Elle Fanning), pays him an unexpected visit, that he questions where his life is heading.
Winner of the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival, Somewhere is a candid and understated portrayal of the other side of fame. This is a familiar tale of a lost and lonely Hollywood, but, characteristically for Coppola, its appeal lies in its delicate portrayal of this stagnation and isolation and this is captured visually by Harris Savides’ reportage-style camerawork. This sense of suspended animation is poignantly highlighted when Marco feels a pear, as he has forgotten how it feels like and when he sits patiently with his head in the plaster cast that must be taken for his “old man” makeup, we see him cosseted in celebrity and suppressed by loneliness.
The question is raised as to whether Somewhere is in some part autobiographical; indeed Sophia spent much time accompanying her father, Francis Ford Copolla, and too stayed at the Chateau Marmont. The father-daughter theme permeates Copolla’s films and much like Scarlet Johansson’s character in Lost in Translation, Cleo, in her own quiet and unassuming way, injects a vitality and hope into Marco’s life, without questioning his lifestyle or seeking a reformation of his character. We see him assume a teenage boy persona when bored in his room watching identical pole-dancers and in a peculiar role reversal, we see her cooking Eggs Benedict for breakfast, while Johnny has a lie in. Nevertheless, the transience of their friendship is highlighted as we become aware that the pair may not survive the separation when Johnny takes her to summer camp in Nevada.
This is a world without ramification or repercussion, where actions are not explicitly questioned – a rendition of a bland and cyclical existence. Copolla’s movie enunciates astutely with muted bathos. It is well executed, and reconfirms Sophia Copolla as a talented and distinctive director. However, the strong parallels with Lost in Translation underline what Somewhere lacks – the former being funnier, more engaging and more mature. Nevertheless, Somwehere comes warmly recommended.
Currently showing in Oxford at the Ultimate Picture Palace, Jeune Street.