Writer/director Sophia Coppola (daughter of Francis) takes great interest in behavior over words, mood over movement.
She won an Oscar for her screenplay for “Lost in Translation,” a tonal work that followed an actor drifting through the ether of being a celebrity.
Coppola treads similar ground in her latest, “Somewhere.” The film’s limited release brings it to Wichita today after first making a splash on the festival circuit (it won the Golden Lion Award for best picture at the 2010 Venice International Film Festival).
Like “Lost in Translation,” “Somewhere” follows an actor as he discovers that there is something missing from his life. Stephen Dorff (“Public Enemies”) plays Johnny Marco, a shallow action star who spends his nights falling asleep to strippers dancing in his bedroom. He lives in a posh hotel in Hollywood, and basically wants for nothing.
But then his 11-year-old daughter, Cleo (Elle Fanning, younger sister of Dakota) gets dropped in his care, and suddenly his playboy lifestyle is compromised.
He doesn’t really seem to care at first; he enjoys hanging out with Cleo.
Slowly, though, he begins to discover that his stardom doesn’t really mean much. He also begins to realize that he isn’t that great of a person.
Coppola has cast interesting subjects — Dorff is melancholy and vulnerable despite his snide veneer, while Fanning is charming and sprightly despite having self-involved parents.
But don’t look for a lot to happen in the plot. As in “Lost in Translation,” “Somewhere” is more about resonance. It’s also languidly paced, as Coppola likes her camera to linger in static long shots. Her style was more effective in “Lost,” and nears being pretentious here.
Yet, Coppola has somehow crafted a surreal, dreamy experience that lingers. It’s almost meditative.
It asks for a lot of patience. Whether or not you grant it depends on how enthralled you become with its mood.