Monday, 13 December 2010

REVIEW: Somewhere

Johnny Marco sounds like a character Nic Cage would have played in the 80's. Just saying.

They say that people who say nothing are the ones who say everything. I say that's a contradictory sentence that doesn't make any sense. But I also see their point. I know that Sofia Coppola swears by it. After the critical and commercial failure of Marie Antoinette, Coppola goes back to the tried and tested Lost In Translation template. Is Somewhere essentially a remake of her greatest success only subbing in a father/daughter story instead of a romantic one? Possibly. We deal again in the alienation a life of privilege gets you, we deal again in little comic asides aimed at the ridiculousness of showbiz. But its well made, Coppola is a deceptively stylish director, and it feels true. It also contains an awesome performance from the one and only Stephen Dorff. So its OK. But for me this is the last time she can make this film before it doesn't work any more, because the moments it draws its resonance from are so specific.

But back to Dorff. He's one of those actors that's such a great untapped well, because despite having been around for a while he seems to make nothing but crap, never really finding a role to show how good he really is, but offering hints at it along the way. I'd imagine he's most known for being the villain in the first Blade movie. He did some good work against some awful David S. Goyer dialogue, I remember an awesome performance in I Shot Andy Warhol and an interesting one, shall we say, in John Waters' Cecil B. Demented. But that's about it. There was certainly nothing to suggest the subtlety and quiet strength with which he plays his role here. Granted Bill Murray was better, but this still feels like a revelation. Say what you want about Coppola, but she casts very well. I don't want to say Oscar nomination, because I think this film will get ignored, as perhaps it should, there are better films, but it would be deserved. Elle Fanning delivers a strong performance too as his daughter, and hell even Jackass' Chris Pontius is OK.

Any problems I had revolve around the notion of diminishing returns, as undoubtedly this is. Its a hell of a lot better then Marie Antoinette, which took Coppola's leisurely pace and removed the character study and resonance and replaced it with visual excess and empty stylization, making it quite possibly one of the most unintentionally shallow films ever made, that sort of proved the exact point it was trying to disprove, aka saving the name of Marie Antoinette. But when we get to the scenes of say, the press conference or the head-moulding. Both good scenes but the specific way they went after the silliness of Hollywood rang the Lost In Translation bell way too hard. Its OK to retain style or even theme, I have no problem for example with the core relationship of the movie despite it hitting similar beats, I found it to be moving and gratifying. But I don't think you can tell the exact same jokes the same audience and expect a bigger laugh, so to speak.

Still, she's a talented director, and Somewhere is an intriguing, well acted quaint little movie. And is this the best use of strippers in movie history? Because that scene was awesome and not in the skeevy way that implies, in a this is proper art kind of way. Coppola has a way of making moments transcend the movie that they're in, and that happens in Somewhere, the ice-skating scene another glorious gem, but it doesn't quite happen often enough. And I think it needed to.

Rating: 7/10

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