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Somewhere

About.com Rating 4.5 Star Rating

By

Somewhere

Stephen Dorff and Elle Fanning in 'Somewhere'

Focus Films
If ever there was a movie to be made about my life, I want Sofia Coppola to make it. She would add that sheen of glamour that would make every mundane detail worth watching. The score would evoke the perfect mood. Hopefully, I would get to spend a good deal of time in a hotel, where I would be given the opportunity to swim in a gorgeous pool. Also, I would dress better.
Coppola's films are remarkably stylish, but contain an equal measure of substance. In Somewhere, movie star Johnny Marco (Stephen Dorff) leads a dissolute and decidedly unhappy life, and still, I was envious. The film is set in the legendary Chateau Marmont, the infamous home to entertainment royalty.

After the lavish Marie Antoinette, Coppola returns to the itinerant lifestyle of the lost and the privileged. In the wonderful Lost in Translation, a young woman (Scarlett Johansson) makes a connection with a sad movie star (Bill Murray) in a sleek, expensive Toyko highrise hotel. In Somewhere, Marco is forced out of a bout of narcissism and depression by the arrival of his eleven-year-old daughter Cleo (Elle Fanning).

And oh, is Cleo charming. Like her older sister Dakota, Elle Fanning has been acting for most of her young life and she is good at it. Astoundingly pretty, but in such an unassuming way you might think all children look this way. Fanning skates in one scene of the film, a choreographed routine to the Gwen Stefani song Cool; it is the actress on ice, gliding backwards, spinning, doing her own small jumps. Her father gazes at this girl on the cusp of womanhood -- and the audience does too -- admiring her grace.

There are no fast cuts in Somewhere. Many of the best moments of the film work in tandem with the music: not only Fanning on ice, but also two scenes in which blond twin sisters perform a private pole dance in Marco’s hotel room: first, dressed as sexy nurses; later, as tennis players.

Initially, Marco is an impossible character to care about. He pops illicit pills, he falls asleep on his dancers, he races his Ferrari, he is rude to guests at his own party. Poor sad movie star. Who doesn’t want his problems? But when his daughter Cleo arrives, Marco is required to change and that’s what he does. He rises to the occasion and does so beautifully. We are able to forgive him for racing his Ferrari, bored with the world, or falling asleep while giving cunnilingus to a beautiful woman.

Somewhere is a quiet and beautiful and also moving film and much of its strength is in the small details. Coppola shows how a life can be lived in a hotel room, from Cleo playing Guitar Hero and Wii, or ordering from room service three cups of milk, cheddar cheese, and a cheese grater to make dinner in the small kitchen. Coppola also provides a day in the life of a movie star: first a press conference, but even more interestingly, Marco’s session in the makeup department. A mask is made of his face, thick pasty goop being laid on thick. The camera rests on his face for a long time, no movement on screen, just the sound of Marco breathing. This act of breathing, we are made to understand, requires effort.

Writers are often told to write what they know. With Somewhere, Coppola is doing just this. Clearly, she knows movie stars. The 39-year-old director also has children. She has been in and out of the Chateau Marmont her entire life, and the film is a loving portrait not just of father and daughter, but also the place itself. Yes, there are supermodels next door, and rock stars doing drugs, the promise of regular sex with fawning groupies, but there is also the old waiter who serenades a tired Cleo with the song Teddy Bear. It’s a tender and unexpected moment. Coppola continues to surprise and amaze with her singular view of the world.

Somewhere

Starring: Stephen Dorff, Elle Fanning, Chris Pontius, Michelle Monaghan
Directed by: Sofia Coppola Produced by: Francis Ford Coppola, Fred Roos, Paul Rassam
Running Time: 1 hr. 38 min.
Release Date: December 22nd, 2010
MPAA Rating: R for sexual content, nudity and language. Distributors: Focus Features
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