Who’s In It: Stephen Dorff, Elle Fanning, Chris Pontius, Lala Sloatman, Michelle Monaghan, Laura Chiatti
The Basics: Movie star Johnny Marco (Stephen Dorff) is living the Hollywood dream. But even with fame and fortune, beautiful women at his fingertips and a residence at the Chateau Marmont, Johnny’s beginning to feel increasingly alienated and alone in the cushy world of Ferraris and parties and booze and pills that celebrity has afforded him. The waning actor only lights up during visits from his daughter Cleo (Elle Fanning), a mature and perceptive 11-year-old who hasn’t seen much of daddy dearest over the years. As they bond over the course of a few weeks, Johnny realizes how empty his life has been and slowly, maybe, starts turning it around.
What’s The Deal: Languidly paced and quiet, Sofia Coppola’s sweet father-daughter love story can be easily written off as a biographical self-indulgence or misconstrued to be as aimless as its protagonist, but either would be missing the forest for the trees. As in her previous films (The Virgin Suicides, Lost in Translation, Marie Antoinette), there’s an element of the angst-ridden princess trapped in a castle in Somewhere, but it’s not the princess who needs saving – it’s her father who’s adrift and in danger of drowning in his own excess. Coppola draws her characters with an acute and sympathetic eye, and one supposes she of all people should know what it’s like to be the daughter of a famous person (and the cousin of other famous persons who more closely resemble Dorff’s bachelor actor). But Somewhere feels more observational than personal, and despite its Tinseltown trappings, it’s simply an intimate foray inside the emotional life of an adult who realizes they’ve been focusing for far too long on the wrong priorities in life.
How We Know Almost Everything We Need To Know About Johnny Marco (and Sofia Coppola's Intentions) In The Opening Shot: Coppola’s static camera watches as Johnny speeds around an empty race track in his black Ferrari, speeding in seemingly endless circles. After countless go-rounds, he stops, gets out of the car and stands there, looking around for the next thing to do. Coppola sets the tone almost as a warning: This isn’t going to be one of those films in which stuff, well, happens… but rest assured, even the most unhurried and seemingly random scene will have something to say.
For Example: Twin strippers (played by former Hef girlfriends/Playboy Playmates Kristina and Karissa Shannon) perform two separate pole dancing routines for Johnny, who falls asleep in the first and musters faux enthusiasm for the second, within the span of 10 minutes. Soon after, he takes Cleo to figure skating lessons and watches, genuinely enthralled, as she performs a routine to Gwen Stefani’s “Cool” –a perfectly chosen ode to love, reconnection, and friendship. In another subtle scene, Coppola stages an afternoon of father-daughter Guitar Hero play as metaphor for Johnny and Cleo’s relationship. Connecting the dots between scenes like these is on the viewer, as Coppola does everything short of shouting her intent out loud.
Stranger Than Fiction: Some of the funniest moments in Somewhere come straight out of the celebrity experience. The international press junket Johnny attends for his latest, soon-to-be big in Europe action flick, gets every hilarious detail right, from the apple box he stands on for a pretend-happy photo op with his contentious co-star/ex-lover (Michelle Monaghan) to the cabal of journalists – some of whom are played by actual Hollywood Foreign Press Association members -- asking inane questions. Later, Johnny shares an awkward elevator ride with Benicio del Toro in an uncredited cameo and finds himself surrounded by scantily clad dancers while accepting honors onstage at the Telegatti Awards, an Italian showbiz gala that Coppola attended a few years back with her father.