Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Movie with Abe: Somewhere

Directed by Sofia Coppola
Released December 22, 2010

When Sofia Coppola makes a movie, it’s worth taking note. In eleven years, Coppola has only made four feature films, and they have all been quite distinctive and unique. Her first movie, “The Virgin Suicides,” was a tragic look at a group of doomed sisters whose lives become inconsolably lonely after a suicide. Her second was the Oscar-winning “Lost in Translation,” a film that got Bill Murray to be serious and truly established her as an artsy filmmaker with a taste for colors and careful cinematography. Her third was an overindulgent, lavish update on “Marie Antoinette” that just didn’t work. And now she presents “Somewhere,” a very subtle, often hypnotic look at celebrity and the relationship between a father and his daughter.

After utilizing too much pomp and noise in “Marie Antoinette,” Coppola is back to her token quietness, frequently lingering on the small moments and refusing to jump ahead to the next scene, even if little to nothing is happening. The almost-still cinematography is meant to illustrate the mundane nature of the life of actor Johnny Marco (Stephen Dorff). Viewers of the film get the chance to experience life as Marco does, occasionally bringing glimmers of excitement and adventure, but just as often seeming unfulfilling and sober. Enormous credit is due to cinematographer Harris Savides, who has collaborated frequently with another extremely artsy (though sometimes less positively so) director, Gus Van Sant, for his unflinching dedication to finding and extracting meaning in the most meaningless of situations.

From its start, which features Marco driving around a course, all alone, repeatedly, this is very clearly a Sofia Coppola film. Coppola has enlisted Phoenix, as with her previous films, for musical accompaniment for the film, and the track “Love Like a Sunset” is extraordinarily effective as a theme for the ever-wandering Marco. The mood Coppola creates for her film is perfect for its lead character, firmly establishing his semi-realized frustration and sadness with the inescapability of the life he’s living. That sentiment is underlined by the arrival of his daughter Cleo (Elle Fanning), whose presence makes him contemplate everything.

Contemplative is a great word to describe “Somewhere,” and its performances are very much in line with that theme. Stephen Dorff, who has been acting for over a decade but hasn’t recently had any notable or very memorable roles, proves to be an excellent choice to play Marco. It’s especially fascinating to see his world-famous character interact with everyone he meets in such a muted, sad manner. Dorff also does a stellar job of understating Marco’s promiscuity, as the character beds nearly every woman he comes into contact with on screen. Fanning proves just as talented as her older sister Dakota, playing a very mature eleven-year-old but believably conveying her youth at the same time. In a film with precious little dialogue, it’s all worthwhile, thanks to the delivery by Dorff, Fanning, and the smaller players, and to a great script by Coppola. Oscar voters probably won’t take notice, but this film is entirely worthy of positive comparison to “Lost in Translation.”


1 comment:

Greg Boyd said...

I'll be interested to check this one out despite mixed reviews. "Lost in Translation" is probably in my top 20 movies of all-time. It's just amazing.

Got to agree about "Marie Antoinette", though. It was insanely dull and overindulgent (though Dunst was quite good in the title role).