The basics: In the latest film written and directed by Sofia Coppola, Stephen Dorff plays Johnny Marco, a famous Hollywood actor living at the Chateau Marmont. His pre-teen daughter, Cleo (Elle Fanning, who was fantastic) comes to stay with him.
My thoughts: I'm a huge fan of Sofia Coppola, and I found the premise of this film exciting. It's a nuanced look at celebrity culture through the eyes of someone is somewhat an insider and somewhat an outsider.
Coppola grabs the viewer from the opening scene, which features a car being driven in circles. The steady frame is almost unsettling in its length. There were nervous rumblings in the theater, but the scene does exactly what I imagine Ms. Coppola intended: it disarms the viewer, makes her pay attention and realize her own uneasiness. It's a quiet film but an incredibly profound one. The dialogue is sparse and in some scenes it's non-existent. Coppola managed to make me analyze the construction of the film while enjoying the story's construct.
Stephen Dorff was flawless in this difficult role. Many, many scenes called on him to do or speak very little. It's a film rife with pauses, and I often marveled at the patience in his performance. The father-daughter chemistry between Dorff and Fanning was fantastic. His initial uneasiness, which was somewhat mimicked by the audience's, fades slowly as he and Cleo spend more time together. The viewer sees the changes in their relationship and in Johnny emerge slowly and subtly.
In many ways, Somewhere reminded me of early Linklater (Slacker, Dazed and Confused and Before Sunrise--I saw hints of Ethan Hawke's Jesse in Stephen Dorff's Johnny.) It's a deceptively quiet film whose wisdom will become most apparent with multiple viewings.
The verdict: In this time of films based on novels and real people, Somewhere is a welcome diversion. It's deceptively quiet, amazingly wise, honest, authentic and still manages to inspire in a beautiful way.
Rating: 5 stars (out of 5 stars)
Length: 97 minutes
Release date: It's in these theaters now
Source: I paid to see it at the Spectrum Theatres
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