Sofia Coppola’s ‘Somewhere’ is released on DVD – review

Sofia Coppola’s ‘SOMEWHERE’ is released on DVD
and reviewed BY IAN JOHNSTON

If you always harboured suspicions that director Sofia Coppola’s pictures were really pretty empty vessels, attractive to look at but ultimately bereft of any real content, then Somewhere provides conclusive proof.

Ultimately the main problem with Somewhere, a meandering vision of a spoilt, dissolute and ultimately dissatisfied ”˜bad boy’ Hollywood actor Johnny Marco (a miscast Stephen Dorff: Charlie Sheen would have been a hundred times better and could have saved the whole picture), attempting to reconnect with his smart 11 year-old daughter Cleo (a rather good Elle Fanning), is that it is too infatuated with the people and society it is depicting. Instead of savaging them, Sofia Coppola offers highly predictable platitudes and observations. This fatal failing is compounded by the fact that Coppola is very much a citizen of this unreal world and that she wrote the rudderless movie as well as directing it.

The film opens with a sequence depicting Marco driving his flash black Ferrari round and round in circles. This sequence, in case you do not clock its significance and ”˜meaning’, goes on for a very, very long time. It is so obvious that you are sure it will be referred to again at the close of the ”˜drama’ ”“ and it is.

The vacuity of Johnny lifestyle, before Cleo’s unexpected arrive, is illustrated by him yawning while watching a pair of pretty plastic blonde twins (Kristina and Karissa Shannon) pole dancing in unison for his delectation in his hotel suit within the infamous playground to the rich, the West Hollywood Chateau Marmont. Johnny does not have on screen sex with these girls but there are a few brief and discrete dalliances along the way with other ”˜hotties’. Yet massive consumption of class-A substances (he takes a few pills) and booze (Johnny does get a little inebriated at a party and busts his arm) are conspicuous by their absence. Another tortuously protracted scene, in which Johnny is smothered in latex makeup to create a mask of him as an old man for picture, aches for profundity but comes up barren. Yes, we get the metaphor; Johnny is artistically and morally stifled by his environment.

And so it continues; Johnny watches from the benches as Cleo figure skates, unaware that she had reached such a level of proficiency. Coppola does manage to capture the fact that we are living in an increasingly homogenised world ”“ Johnny travels to Italy on a movie publicity blitz, and apart from the fact that most people are speaking Italian, he has simply stepped from one gilded cage into another: an Italian luxury hotel. The spectre of constant hounding by the paparazzi and the ensuing paranoia induced by fame is alluded too (Johnny always asks his daughter to check what car is ”˜following’ them) but played for light-hearted laughs.

Ultimately, if you want to see a great movie about the savagery of the machinations of the Hollywood dream machine, check out Robert Aldrich’s The Big Knife. Made in 1955, staring Jack Palance, Ida Lupino and Rod Steiger, it carries a hell of lot more punch than Sofia Coppola’s rather feeble and far too gentle movie, which remarkably won the Golden Lion for best film at the 2010 Venice Film Festival. If you seek a current sinister side of Hollywood vision, don’t even bother going to the cinema, just catch Charlie Sheen’s latest Torpedo of Truth communiqué on whatever medium he decides to fire it.

Somewhere is out on DVD on 4th April 2010


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