I am one of those people: I loved Marie Antoinette. I’ve seen it three times and have taken something new from it each time. A lot of people hated Marie Antoinette. I can’t imagine that they would like Somewhere any more than that.
Somewhere is a movie that might need to incubate inside me for a few days, because its appeal is not immediately apparent. On face value, this is simply an unrelatable movie in which very little to nothing happens. If you scratch beneath the surface, well … you would probably come to the same conclusion.
Hollywood star Johnny Marco (Stephen Dorff) lives in serviced apartments and is visited on a seemingly daily basis by twin pole dancers. When his ex-wife goes away, Johnny has to spend some time with his daughter Cleo (Elle Fanning).
That’s it. That’s the movie.
As Marie Antoinette is my most consumed Sofia Coppola film, drawing comparisons is inevitable. Both films are studies of empty decadence, but Marie Antoinette was a much more sympathetic character. She had to marry out of political necessity and was never allowed to properly grow up. There is a character with reason for her deep melancholy. (This is perhaps more true of Kirsten Dunst’s portrayal rather than the actual historical figure)
Cruel though this may sound, Johnny seems to bring it all on himself. There is nothing to stop him from having a more emotionally fulfilling life. Realistically, depression can hit anyone regardless of personal circumstance – but a rich guy with an empty life isn’t particularly compelling. Somewhere catches Johnny in a period where he’s junketing rather than working. Perhaps he’s more happy when he’s on a film, but that’s not what we’re shown. We work with what we’re given, and what we’re given is a sad sack.
You could say that he womanises to fill the void, but is it womanising when a woman is willing to undo her top simply at the sight of you? This, and other questions, Coppola doesn’t even attempt to answer.
Unsurprisingly, the best moments of the film are when Johnny and Elle are bonding as father and daughter. These are not coincidentally the parts captured on the poster and in the trailer, and two of them involve swimming pools. These moments are idyllic and pleasant, and amount to much more than every other drawn out scene put together. Nothing much happens, but it’s a nice brand of nothing much, set to affirming music.
Somewhere is more a list of component parts than it is a movie. At the same time, it’s more about the overall “feel” than it is about the finished product. I have issues with it but it made me feel something that I can’t put my finger on. It might be like a face hugger, laying its eggs inside me so that days from now my chest will burst with an alien love for the film.
That said, Coppola’s ending is less profound than it is stupid. A pragmatist cannot allow a movie to end at the point that Coppola rolls the credits. It’s the most annoying and discordant note in a movie that is otherwise working in symphony towards something – even if the audience is uncertain of just what that may have been even after they have left.