Sofia Coppola’s most popular and award-winning film, Lost in Translation, saw Bill Murray wander Tokyo as a deleaguered movie star looking for a sense of purpose. Murray’s charm hadn’t has such a deserved vehicle for his increasingly wry humour – combined with the sprightly Scarlett Johansson Coppola struck a chord with audiences. Everyone felt for Murray’s actor slipping into limbo as Johansson offered a sembelence of reality. With Somewhere she tries to repeat the trick, this time with Stephen Dorff the actor, though this time he’s a hugely bankable action star already besieged by ladies who needs to snap out of a party lifestyle that might not seem lonely at times, but at others it is soul destroying.
Said action star goes by the name of Johnny Marco (Dorff). Tattooed and with chiselled looks, he’s a bad-boy done good who enjoys driving around town in his Ferrari, picking up girls and boozing between press junkets, make-up sessions and anything else a studio requires of the star other than working – he’s got a plaster cast that prevents him from getting any current work. Like Murray’s character in Lost in Translation, Coppola presents Marco as a man not entirely happy with his lifestyle, only here it is an excess of attention that does him no favours. At one photocall his co-star berates his performance in the bedroom through a gritted grin and he’s regularly waking up in unexpected situations. Lingering shots of Marco alone emphasise his solitary existence while in the hubbub of Hollywood it’s all go.
At times it is touching to watch Dorff and Fanning together.
The look behind-the-scenes of an action star’s career of twisted personal histories makes for interesting viewing at times, though it’s hard to care much for Marco as he indulges himself on all that comes his way. Dorff does pull out a few cheeky smiles as if to say “who wouldn’t hop across the hallway to sleep with the hot girl offering coffee”, though Coppola seems to forget that she’s filming a scene she may have experienced in real life while most of her audience have seen only in Hollywood cinema.
Marco’s life changes, as does the direction of Somewhere, when his 11-year-old daughter Cleo (Elle Fanning) arrives at his hotel in need of a place to stay as his ex-wife has gone away. Cleo proceeds to show her father that there is more to life – and girls – than living it large on one night wonders. At times it is touching to watch Dorff and Fanning together, enjoying the simple life to the point of his Ferrari breaking down is no disaster. However, at the point Coppola could have delivered an insightful comment on Marco’s real state of mind, she serves up a saccherine to the point of smug final scene that feels too much like a cop out. Added to a film that seems to echo Lost in Translation a little too closely, and it seems Coppola has run out of steam and in need of breaking loose from the movie making machine to give her some perspective on the lives of her viewers.