The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

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“Somewhere” a benefit to Sofia Coppola’s burgeoning career

The simplistic subtly showcased in “Somewhere” solidifies Sofia Coppola as a bonafide filmmaker. Rarely does a director rebound so successfully and gracefully from a film like “Marie Antoinette.” Sofia, like her Academy Award winning father Francis Ford Coppola with his gangster films, has created charismatic characters, hopeless human beings who are saved by remarkable women. “Somewhere” feels like a European film- minimalistic, yet mesmerizing.

With only four films thus far in her career, Coppola debuted with a spectacular adaptation of “The Virgin Suicides.” She followed that up with her Academy Award winning “Lost in Translation,” for which she won Best Original Screenplay. With “Lost in Translation,” Coppola arose as the first American woman nominated for Best Director. Her follow-up, “Marie Antonitte,” received mixed reviews even though it collected an Oscar for Best Costume. Maybe this blessing helped Coppola to refocus her career.

In “Somewhere,” Johnny Marco (Stephen Dorff) depicts a distracted, directionless actor living at the legendary Chateau Marmont. Tabloid favorite Marco cares more about partying than his career. Who could blame him for living comfortably in a Hollywood hotspot with women aplenty? Whiskey, women and drugs constantly control his life.

After another party in his room, Marco awakes to find his 11-year-old daughter Cleo (Elle Fanning) signing a newly acquired cast on his arm after falling down stairs before the party. Pleasantly pleased, the twosome visit an ice skating rink and Marco watches his daughter practice her ice skating routine. Reuniting with his daughter, the two bond quickly. The “take your daughter this week” ultimatum from Marco’s ex-wife appears as though the mother has abandoned her daughter.

Marco must directly face life and decide his destiny. Does he continue his lascivious lifestyle of partying, strippers, popping pills and numbing his existence with booze?

Stephen Dorff sizzles as Johnny Marco. Dorff has ridden the Hollywood career roller coaster over the years. It’s truly a pleasure to behold him in a quality role once again. Dorff dominates as the pathetic, partying patron of the Chateau Marmont. With carelessness and thoughtlessness, Dorff plays the part effortlessly.

Marco imitates today’s contemporary “actors” with their disappointing, disenchanting, and disillusioning lifestyles. Present-day Hollywood “talent” cares more about being seen in public than producing quality work. Their nightlife rules while entertainment values exit.  
Marco has lost his career hopes as the film opens with him aimlessly driving his Ferrari around the desert to symbolize that he is journeying nowhere in his life.

Then Cleo re-enters his life. Marco never took the time to appreciate and bond with his daughter. By going ice skating, visiting Italy, eating gelato in a lavish European hotel room, and playing Guitar Hero, Marco genuinely sees what he has been missing. Elle Fanning fantastically and irresistible radiates as Cleo. Finally stepping out of her older sister’s shadow, Elle resonates as someone to truly observe. Dorff and Fanning blend beautiful chemistry and recall Ryan and Tatum O’Neal in “Paper Moon” because their bonding translated as a genuine, heartfelt, honest onscreen relationship.

Fanning holds her own against Dorff and you forget she’s just a young actress. Whether it’s cooking for her dad, typing on her laptop or even figure skating, she appears wise beyond her years. Fanning’s “Cleo” has had to mature against her father’s limelight and knows how to handle herself in every occurrence, opening or opportunity.

When Marco accepts an award in Italy with Cleo in the audience, the father looks down from the stage at his daughter, who looms as the only natural looking representative in the audience composed of individuals with abundant makeup, ample implants, considerable hair, substantial outfits and scads of fake smiles. This tender moment immensely impacts Marco and Cleo.

Chateau Marmont surfaces as the third and most effective character in this low-key film. Transitioning from Hollywood hotspot to photo shoot location to Marco’s hotel “home,” the audience never consummates a dull moment. The iconic location superbly captures life’s distractions that an entertainer encounters in modern day L.A. Looking out on the hotel balcony, one can scrutinize the finest and worst of Sunset Boulevard. That’s the beauty of life.

The most unexpected movie performance emanates from Chris Pontius, best known for his roles in “Jackass” and “Wild Boyz.” Pontius is unusually cast, but projects genuineness and flawlessness as Sammy, one of Johnny Marco’s friends. The connection with Fanning proves phenomenal as he has positioned himself to become a redefined dramatic actor.

The band Phoenix scored the film and seamlessly harmonized the tone and tension throughout. Unlike Coppola’s previous directorial outing where music overshadowed the film, the chosen songs were well-placed to allow the audience to concentrate on what’s happening rather than to recognize that particular song.

Lack of dialogue can demonstrate frustration for mainstream moviegoers, but everything was communicated through the actors’ movements and emotions. Sometimes a hand gesture or a facial expression sufficed, but didn’t detract from a flawless movie. For example, Marco, during a promotional photo shoot with Rebecca (Michelle Monaghan) for their latest film, is shown standing on a small wooden platform. Their looks of disgust showcase more than dialogue would have delivered. The minor features and idiosyncrasies contribute to a marvelous movie.

Marco’s manly outfits consist of classic clothes reminiscent of the lost era echoing Marlon Brando and James Dean. T-shirts, vintage jeans and well-worn work boots convey Marco’s uncaring, yet cool demeanor. The cinematography and editing, especially during the pool and desert scenes, were stunningly composed.

My only negativity was feeling obligated to compare “Somewhere” to “Lost in Translation.” Undeniable similarities exist, but they reflect different moments. In “Lost in Translation,” an aging actor discovers himself in Japan, while “Somewhere” addresses Marco’s “midlife” lifestyle that defines his degradation and deterioration.

Kristina and Karissa Shannon seem miscast as strippers Bambi and Cindy, who call on Johnny Marco at the Chateau Marmont. When performing, more awkward moments than sexy situations surface. Their dance routines appear more disturbing and distracting than engaging and enjoyable.

The minimalist movie materializes as delectable, delightful and diversionary. Dorff and Coppola are perfectly paired much like Mickey Rourke and Darren Aronofsky with “The Wrestler.”

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