Written and directed by Sofia Coppola
Starring Stephen Dorff, Elle Fanning, Chris Pontius
"Bold" isn’t the first word that comes to mind when you watch a movie as unassuming as Sofia Coppola’s “Somewhere.” Boldness, however, is exactly what Coppola displays in crafting such a spare character study at the expense of easy exposition.
Stephen Dorff stars as Johnny Marco, a party-loving A-list actor who’s old enough to have fathered an 11-year-old girl but young enough to be drawing flirtatious glances from admiring women left and right. He’s not quite a Leo, but maybe a Colin Farrell. The details of his life sound juicy on paper — he sleeps with a co-star, orders erotic dancers to entertain him in private, breaks an arm while cavorting at a party — but on-screen these details are revealed discreetly, without lurid fanfare. Unlike escapist fare such as “Entourage,” which represents fame as an idealized or heightened form of existence, “Somewhere” shows how, on the inside, famous people really are just like us.
The movie follows Marco during an extended stay at the Chateau Marmont, the famed Hollywood hot spot where stars go to party and sojourn. When he wakes up one morning to find his daughter, Cleo (Elle Fanning), in his apartment without notice — his ex has deputized summer caretaking duties to him — his life doesn’t undergo any immediate changes. He takes her on a press junket to Italy, they play video games, he introduces her to his booty call over breakfast. Below the surface, though, there are seismic shifts afoot. Evident in Dorff’s vacant stares is a distinct boredom with his life, and a yearning to be a better father.
Fanning is lovely in this film, uncannily so, and Dorff has mastered the art of understatement. However, this is no “Lost in Translation.” Whereas that movie balanced understatement with the beautiful chaos of Tokyo’s nightscape, “Somewhere” is too subdued. Though you admire Coppola’s thoughtful, measured scenes, there’s only so much time we can spend appreciating the hidden depths of an iceberg before we begin to wish there was more to gaze at on the surface.