Movies like Somewhere are of the most difficult kind to sell. They’re the kind of movies that movie-snobs will either admire or maybe even hate, whereas mainstream audiences will either hate it or be so extremely bored they’ll fall asleep 10 minutes in. Somewhere is a movie about the quiet moments in life. It isn’t long, but it feels almost excruciatingly slow due to how early Sunday morning-like it paces itself, and also unfortunately benefits by not necessarily having a plot at all.
There is sort of a plot. Johnny Marco (Stephen Dorff) is a has-been actor in America, and apparently a big-hit in Italy for some reason, who begins to reconnect with his daughter who he’s never really had the time to properly raise. That’s about it. Movies like Somewhere require a certain mood/atmosphere/sensibility to them as well as great actors to boot, and while Somewhere does have that, they are so subtle that they can be easily missed.
The film is the latest from director Sofia Coppola, who began with the exasperatingly depressing The Virgin Suicides, but struck critical gold with many a film-fan’s favorite, Lost in Translation. After that was her rather ambitious take on the period-piece genre with Marie Antoinette, which was a rather divisive film that, from what I’ve heard since I haven’t actually seen it, used a lot of style to set itself apart from other period-pieces, but skimped on everything else.
Now, she wishes to strike gold a second time with Somewhere which covers familiar territory for the writer/director. Much like Lost in Translation, it’s a story about an actor trying to find companionship in a strange, alien setting. Except while we got Bill Murray as the actor, Scarlett Johannson as the companion, and Tokyo as the unique backdrop, here we have Stephen Dorff, Elle Fanning, and, briefly, Italy. The two still feel different, however. Lost in Translation wasn’t exactly the most fast-paced movie of all time, but it still did have some moderate pacing. Meanwhile, Somewhere takes its sweet time so god d*mn much, that if you were waiting to go out on a date with it, you’d have to wait 2 hours just for its hair to get done.
Slow as it is, however, it still has this hypnotic quality to it. There are many horridly pretentious moments in the first half of the film that reminded me of the horridly pretentious The Limits of Control. You know that seen in The Limits of Control, where there’s a scene of the protagonist just riding a train, and it goes on for ten minutes for no reason other than to be artsy-fartsy, Somewhere has many scenes much like that, and while they certainly aren’t as long as that one train scene, they still do feel long. The opening shot is 2 long minutes of watching a car drive in circles and it is followed by another 8-10 minutes of Stephen Dorff moping around in his hotel, inviting two pole dancers to do what is oddly the most yawn-inducing “erotic” dance in recent memory, drinking some beer, driving from one place to another, derpy derpy doo.
It has an aggressively art-house feel, and just with any quintessential art-house film, those with the patience for it will be rewarded later on. Once we finally get to the bits with Dorff actually trying to connect with his daughter, we get many small, beautiful moments that were what made Lost in Translation so great. Hardly a word of dialogue is spoken in many of these scenes, and they have this strange impact that is simultaneously subtle and noticeable. This is mainly due to the charm of the two leads. Stephen Dorff shows off acting chops that we rarely get out of him (Remember, he was in Alone in the Dark), whereas Elle Fanning, despite looking a bit old for an 11-year old character, still has such a nice little charm to her that makes her stand-out from her more successful sister, Dakota.
I think the key to Somewhere‘s alluring quality is for sure the way Coppola approaches the subject matter. Since there is no plot, the focus is entirely on the characters, and she still manages to make her examinations of them very understated. There are no conflicts, no contrived moments where the characters fight and separate for a little while only to come back together at the very end The Wedding Singer style. Oh sure, there is some drama to be had, characters cry, and feel a little sad for a brief moment, but it’s never overblown. The drama comes from its characters, such as Stephen Dorff’s loneliness, Elle Fanning’s distance from her parents, etc.
It’s easy for people to say that “nothing happens” in Somewhere. And while very little does happen, it’s not necessarily about what’s happening in the big picture, it’s more about what’s happening in tiniest corners of the eye. Stuff does happen, sparse as it is, and I’d be lying if I said that it didn’t have some kind of impact on me.
Final Verdict: I can’t say you’ll enjoy it, seeing how it’s a very acquired taste . However if you just want an honest, meditative, and sweet experience and don’t mind taking your sweet time with it, Somewhere is a whole-hearted recommendation. Those wanting or expecting anything else out of it will leave rather disappointed and bored. It’s just one of those movies that doesn’t necessarily feel like a journey, so much as a wonderful, nice, pleasant weekend with your closest relative. Not much really going on, but an experience that will certainly stick with you.
That is all.
See ya next time. Now if you’ll excuse me, I gotta whisper something to Scarlett Johannson, and you can’t hear what it is…BIATCH!!