Is This Going Somewhere?

Faithfully working my way down my Netflix queue (No easy task), Sofia Coppola's Somewhere arrived in our mailbox recently. Like so many others I've been a fan of Coppola's understated works (The Virgin Suicides, Lost in Translation) and am keenly aware that even her clunkers (Marie Antoinette) are a feast for the eyes. While I would place Somewhere closer to the Marie Antoinette end of her spectrum of work, I cannot get the film out of my brain. It is by no means my favorite film by Coppola, still it has haunted me for days.

Somewhere is the story of a hard partying, a-list, bad boy actor at the apex of his career. Johnny Marco (quietly portrayed by Stephen Dorff) is gluttonous in the carnal trappings made available to him. He's hard drinking, aimlessly promiscuous and achingly lonely. Enter Cleo, Marco's semi-estranged daughter. Elle Fanning, who is quickly becoming one of my favorite working actresses (Phoebe in Wonderland, Super 8), is luminous in the role. Cleo proves to be the catalyst that turns Marco's meaningless, isolated life of consumption into something much deeper and more meaningful.

Truthfully, Coppola's screenplay is about as subtle as a sledge hammer. Her point is crystal clear from the opening shot to the ending credits. Marco is a wildly successful and pitifully lonely guy in need of direction.  For instance, we meet Dorff's character driving his Ferrari in circles on an isolated road. His car goes in and out of frame as it accelerates and decelerates seemingly without any point or purpose.  But, as the credits roll we see Marco once again in his Ferrari, this time the horizon is limitless, the highway is crowded and he is clearly headed somewhere.  I promise, this is not the only in-your-face, "Get it? Get it?" symbolism in the film. But, somehow in the midst of Coppola's extra long - often tedious - cuts and the uber arty, film school-y symbolic plot devices, she manages to create a thing of haunting beauty. As I mentioned before, I cannot get the film out of my mind.  Coppola (and her cinematographer Harris Savides) have a way with the camera lens. Her understated (well, understated compared to the lavishness of Marie Antoinette) and beautifully simplistic images have stayed with me for days.

Somewhere, though probably not Coppola's most successful film, is still worth a viewing.  Fanning is a joy to watch and honestly this is her film. She plays Cleo with innocence and charm. Her character manages to be a quiet, grounding voice of wisdom without ever crossing the pretentious, too big for her britches line. Meanwhile, Dorff manages to capture that, "I want to fix him" bad boy quality that makes, has made and will make so many of our knees weak. (Admit it, there's something about a bad boy that needs to turn his life around.) When viewing the film one should simply know what to look forward to and set expectations accordingly. Without a doubt this film is character driven and often left this viewer wondering, "Is anything going to happen? Ever?" But its not-so-subtle warning against a life frittered and wasted by the trappings of "success" and consumerism has gotten stuck in my gullet. And though there were moments when I wanted to take a fast forward button to Coppola's lengthy edits, in retrospect I really enjoyed the film and have come away an even bigger fan of her work in general.

Have you seen Somewhere? What was your take?