Wednesday, December 15, 2010

ANYWHERE BUT HERE

I have considered myself to be a fan of Sofia Coppola's work. I've always found that she approaches filmmaking from a unique perspective. Which is why I think the most frustrating aspect of her 2010 offering Somewhere is the massive amount of goodwill for her that I have lost since watching it. And all of this over what? Nothing. Absolutely nothing.

Somewhere tells the story - if you can call it that - of Johnny (Stephen Dorff), a thoroughly affected yet successful actor living in Hollywood's nirvana-like Chateau Marmont. The film is also ostensibly about his daughter Cleo (Dakota Fanning's sister Elle, a girl who possesses the unique quality of being able to emote believably even less than her big sis). She lives with her mom, but through a series of unrelated events WHERE NOTHING HAPPENS, she winds up in his care. Sometimes at the hotel, sometimes in Italy, sometimes in Vegas, never because any of it means anything.

While there are so many crimes at work here - seemingly not having an editor, to start - I'm almost livid with Ms. Coppola for having the opportunity to set a film in one of the most beautiful, secluded properties in Los Angeles, and completely squandering it. "Wow, Sofia! Rich Hollywood types throw wild parties and have anonymous sex?" She should work for 20/20 next with all these exposés. Not only is it not shocking, but it's garnering no sympathy.

And while the scenery is always more or less stunning, every scene lasts 5 minutes longer than it needs to. The camera simply remains motionless on one shot, regardless of whether anything is happening or if anyone is even in it. But by this same token, the scenes co-starring Stephen Dorff's new body felt suspiciously scant.

Speaking of The Dorff, there's a reason I haven't really talked too much about the film's performances: there isn't much to say. The script had to be less than 50 pages long, and I've no doubt it's filled mostly with stage directions. The non-talky parts of The Virgin Suicides worked, because we were hypnotized by Air's exquisite soundtrack set to the dreamlike 70s suburban visuals of Coppola's directorial debut.

She fails yet again in Somewhere, however, by choosing Phoenix as her musical collaborators and giving them one song in the entire film. The uncomfortable silence in its place does nothing to deepen the emotional impact, because - say it with me now - nothing is actually happening. At one point Cleo bursts into tears, and I had to wonder if the camera had caught the young actress in a real-life breakdown ("Please, just let me act! PLEASE!!"). And when Stephen Dorff's acting ability is being put to waste, you know there's a serious problem.

About seven and a half hours into this movie, I got the distinct impression that Sofia Coppola must have experienced considerable deterioration of her brain in the four years between her most recent films. When you can make Marie Antoinette look as action-packed as Transformers 2: Revenge of the Fallen by comparison, I honestly don't know what could have happened to you. Beyond pretentious, artistic masturbation, rubbish.

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