DENNIS SCHWARTZ 
IS THERE ANY GOOD 
IN SAYING 
EVERYTHING ABOUT A MOVIE?

 
SOMEWHERE (director/writer: Sofia Coppola; cinematographer: Harris Savides; editor: Sarah Flack; music: Phoenix; cast: Stephen Dorff (Johnny Marco), Elle Fanning (Cleo), Chris Pontius (Sammy), Benicio Del Toro (Celebrity), Michelle Monaghan (Rebecca), Laura Chiatti (Sylvia), Simona Ventura (Telegatto Host), Kristina Shannon (Bambi), Karissaa Shannon (Cindy), Lala Sloatman (Layla, ex-wife of Johnny); Runtime: 98; MPAA Rating: R; producer: Sofia Coppola/Roman Coppola/G. Mac Brown; Focus Features; 2010-in English-with some Italian)

 
"It held my attention throughout and the film-making was first-class."

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz 

Director-writer Sofia Coppola ("Marie Antoinette"/The Virgin Suicides"/"Lost in Translation") effectively uses a still camera in this minimalist arty effort at a character study (if you're not a fan of thin plots, then you might not like this well-observed film...which is a pity!). It eschews dialogue for the film's first twenty minutes, as it zeroes in on the alienation mounting for one of the beautiful Hollywood people, the scruffy Johnny Marco (Stephen Dorff ), an inarticulate, heavily tattooed big movie star who is a poseur stuck living an empty life in LA after losing his way in his hedonistic and loveless trip. Johnny is good at making small talk, scoring babes who come on to him and acting charmingly cool by never letting anyone come close. He  has little talent or concern for the finer points of his craft, but gets by on his rugged good looks and his charisma. On the inside he feels the pain of his emotional insecurity, but has lived a lie for so long that he no longer is sure of the truth. The question asked that's left unanswered (though its resolution is certainly more than hinted at) is where such a bored and disillusioned person will end up when the mask of his youth gets unmasked and everyone can see he's already dead inside.

The divorced Johnny has a room at the popular but pretentious arty Chateau Marmont retreat in Beverly Hills, while recovering from an on the job wrist injury. In his room, he does such things as sit up in bed in his room to watch twin blondes perform an exotic pole dance act while he acts nonchalant. When not screwing, Johnny is taken by limo to press junkets to pose for publicity photos with his bitchy costar (Michelle Monaghan) and is called in to the studio so that the makeup people can put a mold on his face to transform him to an old man for his movie role (it's revealing that the thirtysomething is frightened to see what he will look like as a senior citizen).

When Johnny's sweet 11-year-old daughter Cleo (Elle Fanning) is dropped off by his troubled ex-wife (Lala Sloatman), who just takes off somewhere, he relates to his innocent daughter (the most heartwarming character in the film) in a subdued but caring way by treating her to material comforts but can never manage to give this wonderfully creative child (who ice skates, cooks a delicious eggs Benedict and can dance ballet) what she needs most--someone to be a real father who is always there for her. Johnny has her stay in his hotel room and takes her along to Milan, where an Italian TV program puts him up in a luxury hotel (Milan's Hotel Principe Di Savoia) and honors the pampered icon with a life-time career achievement award (which is a satirical look at international pop culture and the sham of such values, showing culture is in more or less the same sad state all over the world).

The melancholy Johnny is much admired by the kowtowing public, even though he knows his life has little meaning and he's not really someone to be admired unless you're fantasizing he's really like the supposed crowd-pleasing roles he plays on film.

It held my attention throughout and the film-making was first-class--no artificial sentimentalities or cliches in its drive to flesh out a nice guy who made it and never became a phony, but is nevertheless not quite the person the public sees on screen. In fact, Johnny, through a superb performance by Dorff, clearly shows us that he doesn't know who he is and in the payoff climactic scene tries to runaway from himself and his empty material existence--even abandoning his Ferrari along a California highway after riding to nowhere in particular (which becomes symbolic of the world-weary protagonist's La Dolce Vita-like journey, which ends on the same quizzical note that it began with the lost soul thinking he must find himself somewhere).

REVIEWED ON 12/1/2010       GRADE: B+

Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"

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