Friday, January 28, 2011
Be prepared to feel as idle as Johnny Marco, Stephen Dorff's character in Sofia Coppola's latest auteur offering, Somewhere. Watch him drive, sit, drink coffee, look out the window and give new meaning to the phrase just hanging out. It's all done in real time, without any background music or underlining score. Her reasoning behind this torturous storytelling device is understood, and it works; and mercifully, it doesn't last longer than about the first 20-25 minutes of the film, it just seems longer.
After that I wouldn't say it exactly picks up, just the scene length and editing style become traditional to our expected way of viewing a film. The story is about an action hero/movie star, a Jason Statham type, but not as seasoned, living in the infamous LA haunt, The Chateau Marmont; only all the shots make this historic, chic hotel look like a flop house.
With so little to do from day to day, you would think Johnny would be on top of work related responsibilities, like scheduled appearances and photo shoots to promote his new film or going to the studio for pre-production stuff on his next film, but he's totally clueless about his itinerary until called by his manager.
This character is not clinically depressed or even self-destructive, although while partying at the hotel, he does get drunk, fall down the stairs and break his wrist. Still, he's not really a bad boy type. He even likes his porn clean, often hiring these twin stripper-pole dancers; adorable double beauties, dressed in little tennis outfits, their non-erotic dance routines are totally PG-13, it's funny and about as sexy as synchronized swimming.
The feeling you get is that Johnny's life is in a holding pattern, where everything just feels empty. Everything except his daughter, Cleo, played by the remarkable Elle Fanning. Johnny perks up when she comes to visit, and when she's deposited on his doorstep by his hapless "I need sometime to go figure out my life" ex-wife, all his "hanging out" becomes fun when done with Cleo. And it's clean fun, you won't see any scenes of her taking a drink or snorting coke or witnessing debauchery. The beauty of the film is in their relationship. It's obvious that her 11 years of life with precarious parents has taught her not to make waves or be demanding. Instead this young girl with a piquant face and adolescent long legs, often bared, is easy, good company, very capable and along for the ride. And because her high scoring Guitar Hero father has a Peter Pan complex, they meet nicely in the middle.
Excerpt of indieWIRE interview with Sofia Coppola:
AT: Marco’s like a kid with his daughter; he’s a playmate. Was that what you had in mind for their interaction?
SC: I thought he’s that kind of guy that, ‘oh, it’ll be fun, let’s get a helicopter and go to Vegas,’ because that’s how he does things. Yeah, he doesn’t do the more grounded, you know, day-to-day things like take her to the dentist or whatever—he comes in for the fun. He’s that kind of guy, like my dad or my cousin Nicholas, they would, “Let’s take a helicopter for fun.” It’s not normal real life that your mom would hire a helicopter. So it’s that kind of guy and that kind of lifestyle that’s a little bit removed from reality, but fun.
AT: Did you have experiences like that as a child, that were over-the-top, like the hotel in Milan?
SC: Yeah, we stayed there, we went to the Telegatto awards, that’s how I know about that, and this hotel suite with a swimming pool, which was something I’d never seen before. But I have memories as a kid…we stayed in that actual room one time, my whole family, my mom, my brother. Yeah, definitely some of these trips with my dad, it can be pretty over the top. But I remember as a kid it was always fun and exciting to go with him to places kids don’t usually get to go to, he always brought us into these kind of grown-up worlds.
I think I may have enjoyed this film more if Sofia had completely played it from that angle - told only through Cleo's perspective of a young girl being brought into a grown-up world. I know I would have liked it more, if I understood the ending.