Somewhere (Review)

Focus Features, 2010, Rated R

Sofia Coppola’s first film since 2006’s underrated Marie Antoinette is laden with the writer/director’s now firmly established concerns: physically attractive (often young) people yearning, whether they know it or not, to connect and find some sort of deeper meaning in their privileged lives.

Somewhere’s simple setup centers on Johnny Marco (Stephen Dorff), a self-involved movie star suffering from an existential malaise. Marco lives at Chateau Marmont (the height of Hollywood decadence) and spends his listless days falling in and out of bed with women when not promoting his latest movie — in this case a lame-looking action thriller with an equally lame title, Berlin Agenda, for which he must go through the soul-deadening ritual of promoting it via a media junket at the Four Season’s Hotel in Beverly Hills (just one of many sequences no doubt lifted from Coppola’s own experiences). Marco’s dazed existence is altered, if only slightly, when his 11-year-old daughter (Elle Fanning) is unexpectedly left in his care.

Coppola’s laid-back visual aesthetic (ably aided by cinematographer Harris Savides) is matched by her continuing reliance on organic, seemingly freeform narrative. This languid, Antonioni-esque cinematic sigh will surely confound those looking for any kind of conventional “Hollywood” tropes beyond its pretty surfaces and vacant semi-protagonist. The oblique opening sequence tips Coppola’s intent from the get-go — a three-minute, unbroken take in which Savides’ static camera catches glimpses of Marco driving his beloved Ferrari in circles somewhere in the California desert.

A surprise winner of the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival and thoroughly ignored upon its brief U.S. theatrical release, Somewhere is about capturing a certain time and place in the life of a man with no particular destination in sight, which it does with stealthy, osmosis-like effectiveness. Grade: B