In Sofia Coppola's "Somewhere," a bored, clueless movie star tries to reconnect with his daughter. We try to remain awake.
Sofia Coppola's "Somewhere" is another "woe is me, I'm famous" wallow. In it, Stephen Dorff plays a wasted movie star. Wasted in the sense that Johnny Marco is often stoned, in the sense that his work appears to be a string of crass action flicks, and in the sense that, failing to connect with his wise, fun-loving, sensitive daughter Cleo (Elle Fanning), he is throwing away his life's potential. He lives in the luxurious limbo of Hollywood's Chateau Marmont, marinating in crass materialism. When he orders up some live entertainment in his penthouse bedroom, it's not one paltry pole dancer but identical-twin blondes. Talk about conspicuous consumption.
The notion that lives glamorous on the surface may be an unsightly mess is one Coppola has pursued through "Lost in Translation" and "Marie Antoinette." This much she has proved: Ennui is a communicable disease. Her characters, with worldviews that scarcely extend beyond their gilded goldfish bowl, are as boring as they are bored. This is not a miscalculation on Coppola's part. She would not train a fixed camera on Johnny's Ferrari, circling a lonely track again and again and yet again, unless she wanted us to feel the banality of his jaded existence in our bones. And we do.
Do we ever. This is a man who nods off to sleep while making love to starlets. Like Louis XVI in "Marie Antoinette," this slacker-deity is a boudoir incompetent. "It wasn't even that good," snips Michelle Monaghan as one of Johnny's ex-lovers.
Eleven-year-old Cleo reappears in his life, dumped like a piece of luggage in his suite by her mom, who needs an unspecified amount of time to herself. The girl is an unspoiled life force, possibly the only person who can budge Johnny out of his torpor. He welcomes her gladly but doesn't have a clue how to relate. His hanger-on buddy Sammy (Chris Pontius of "Jackass") teases Cleo, tells her stories and keeps her giggling. Johnny looks on, silently bemused, as he does when she solves Sudoku puzzles, skates with Olympic grace and cooks Dad world-class eggs Benedict with ingredients ordered from room service. It seems fatherhood is wasted on parents, just as fame and wealth are squandered on celebrities.
The film skips from Hollywood to Milan, where Johnny is being honored on an awards show. As sequined showgirls writhe around him onstage, he smiles awkwardly. Rootless and soulless, Johnny is a commodity to be used up before his expiration date. He is endlessly photographed. His handprint is pressed in a trough of cement, and makeup artists encase his head in a plaster cast. Coppola's lens stares unblinking at the image of Johnny's noggin slathered with what looks like mashed potatoes. In case we didn't comprehend the idea that Johnny needs to get unstuck, he wears a cast on his left hand and wrist for most of the film. We get it. Really, we get it.
"Somewhere" is a fuzzy, unstructured, dialogue-starved film. Incidental details draw the camera's attention as much as the movie's central relationship. Nothing makes much impact, and Johnny's possible breakthrough at the denouement is half a baby step, at best. Coppola's message is clear minutes into the film: Celebrity without creativity is empty, life without love is meaningless, and the Chateau Marmont is still haunted by John Belushi's overdosed ghost. I hope this concludes her Antonioni-esque exploration of deluxe loneliness. That's enough anomie for me.
Colin Covert • 612-673-7186