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'Somewhere' seems to go nowhere

It opens with a successful but dissatisfied actor racing a black Ferrari in a circle, passing us once, twice, three times, more times. The film is called "Somewhere," so maybe you're already grokking the irony: The protagonist is going nowhere.

It seems impossible that this heavy-handed, self-serious movie comes from writer-director Sofia Coppola, who cleverly captured the surreality of celebrity life in 2003's "Lost in Translation" and 2006's "Marie Antoinette." In those movies the central figures were a middle-age man and an 18th century queen, respectively; "Somewhere" focuses on someone perhaps too close to Coppola's age and background. His name is Johnny Marco (Stephen Dorff), and Coppola is so moved by his inertia that for much of the film she simply watches him do nothing.

When Johnny isn't sitting and smoking in room 59 at Hollywood's legendary Chateau Marmont hotel (Benicio Del Toro shows up in the elevator), he tends to fall asleep, even if there's a panting woman beneath him. He brightens somewhat around his 11-year-old daughter, Cleo (Elle Fanning), so it's good news for us when she visits. Whether they bond or not is unclear - they hit the pool, order gelato, talk about "Twilight" - but it's better than watching cigarettes burn.

Coppola still has an eye for memorably weird moments (the stripteasing twins are fascinating), but she also feels lazy. When Johnny yells something that Cleo can't hear, Coppola is only ripping off her own wonderfully enigmatic ending to "Lost in Translation." In "Somewhere," that insightful filmmaker is nowhere to be found.

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