Sunday, January 02, 2011

Like father, like daughter.

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I can’t tell a lie, I went into Somewhere not totally expecting to like it. All I’d known about it before watching was that it won the Golden Lion at the Venice film festival and was generally applauded around the States, but was less-than-warmly received in the UK. And, from some reviews I’d seen which had said the film’s biggest shortcoming was that it tried too hard to emulate Coppola’s 2003 film Lost in Translation (a film, by the way, that I don’t exactly care for). With things like that on its side, it’s no wonder that I approached Somewhere with a level of trepidation. However, films can sometimes prove you wrong. Last year, I watched Bright Star not expecting a whole lot, and adored it. Similarly, Somewhere proved to be a pleasant surprise.

Stephen Dorff plays Johnny Marco, a Hollywood hunk who fills the emptiness that he finds increasingly present in his life with random parties and random women. One day, his 11-year-old daughter Cleo (played by Elle “Dakota’s sister” Fanning”) bungs up and the two are thrown together in a journey of finding out more about each other, and essentially, themselves. It’s a fairly simple premise that has been covered in several films before, but there’s a gentle chemistry between Dorff and Fanning that elevates the film from smug-satire-on-the-privileged that it could so easily slip into. It hardly feels like Stephen Dorff is acting at all, he fits his role so well, and Fanning has none of the precocious know-it-allness that rendered her sister so irksome to me. Furthermore, she plays Cleo with some sweet little mannerisms – the odd hair toss, a bit of thumb twiddling – that indicates the uneasiness and vulnerability of a girl caught in that awkward phase of pre-teenhood, yo-yoed about between two worlds and never feeling like she fits in. It’s a subtle, smart performance that probably deserves more plaudits than it has received.

As with Lost in Translation, there are some indulgent elements to the film that one can’t help feeling Coppola put in the film for herself more than her viewers (a semi-pointless and totally awkward lift scene with Benicio del Toro, far too lingering scenes of pole-dancers entertaining Marco in his hotel room, etc), but these are juxtaposed with scenes that, whilst indulgent, fit in with the film perfectly; shots of Cleo cooking for her and her dad, tracking shots of Johnny Marco’s celebrity being spotted everywhere he goes, as well Cleo describing the plot of Twilight to Johnny. As Cleo fills in Johnny’s days with her favourite activities, his life (perhaps unsurprisingly) sheds its emptiness. But it is a surprising joy to see them on their journey. Apparently much of the film was based around Coppola's own experiences of following her dad around, which would explain the scenes set in Italy, featuring amusing skits on language and culture barriers between Hollywood and the Europeans.

Essentially, what the film could have done with the most was perhaps having the audience care about the leads a little more; whilst I liked them just fine, I never felt I totally fell in love with them like I have done with various other film characters of the noughties (for example, Inglourious Basterd’s Shoshanna, Brokeback Mountain’s Jack Twist, Finding Nemo’s Dory, etc), but nonetheless, Coppola sure knows how to deliver a film. The soundtrack is kooky and fresh (I particularly enjoyed the part Gwen Stefani’s “Cool” played in the film; a song that could perhaps sum up the theme of the film quite well) and Sarah Flack’s editing, with her collaborations with Coppola in Marie-Antoinette and Lost in Translation, cannot be faulted. Ultimately, I didn’t entirely get where the film was headed, but, perhaps like the dad and the daughter in the film, the joy is knowing that they will get, somewhere.

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Juliette said...

I saw this movie recently and had great expectations, but found it disappointing though. Good job we all have different tastes!



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