Somewhere is a film of sparseness and excess. Stephen Dorff plays Johnny Marco, an actor drifting through life at the Chateau Marmont, whose self centered existence is interrupted when confronted with having to take care of his 11 year old daughter. The first thing that may strike you watching the trailer, (other than it being unmistakably a Sofia Coppola film), is that there is almost no dialogue. You’d think this is just an artful teaser but it’s actually fairly representative of the film.
The photography is beautiful but there are some shots that go on way too long. The opening features Dorff driving his car around a race track. After 2 or 3 rounds I had gotten all I needed from that scene but the car proceeded to go around 4 more times. There are a handful of moments like this in the film that go beyond a leisurely pace and really just call attention to themselves. Not that they’re even boring, just that you start to wonder why the film is drawing so much attention to them when it could have easily cut each shot in half and acheived the same effect.
The film doesn’t have the typical structure you might expect from a more commercial film. I had expected Dorff’s character to be more of a “bad” guy, or at least “bad dad” who gets reformed by his daughter, conventional arc satisfied. But that’s not what happens. Dorff’s character is self-involved, but not a bad guy at all. He’s good with his daughter and generally pretty nice to most people. Elle Fanning is great in the film, (though it’s hard to believe she’s only 11), and the two have a good father/daughter chemistry that really anchors the film.
Towards the end, I kept thinking that every shot might be the last one. Because the film steered so far away from cliches I hadn’t expected any grand emotional resolutions at the end. So I was surprised when there were a few moments that attempted some catharsis, and disappointed when they fell flat. I still love Sofia Coppola, but have found with her last two films you have to take the good with the bad.