Thursday, December 30, 2010

Somewhere [2010]

MPAA (R) CNS/USCCB () Roger Ebert (4 stars) Fr. Dennis (4 stars)

IMDb listing -
CNS/USCCB Review -
Roger Ebert's Review -

Somewhere [2010] is another art-house film that’s getting buzz these days, largely due to its having been written and directed by Sofia Coppola, the daughter of famed director Francis Ford Coppola. This is not Sofia Coppola’s writing/directorial debut. She’s had some successes, winning the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay for the comedy Lost in Translation (2003) starring Bill Murray and Scarlet Johansson a movie that was also nominated that year for Best Picture. She’s also had some relative flops, Marie Antoinette (2006), even though that movie did win an Oscar for best Costume Design. Somewhere definitely plays to her strengths of writing and directing off-beat comedy.

Somewhere asks the question, what do you do if you reach all your personal goals rather early in life and reach them in spades? Steven Dorff plays a late-30 to early-40 something Hollywood action star named Johnny Marco who finds himself successful perhaps beyond his wildest dreams, perhaps even without having exerted a great deal of effort, but wondering what now?

The opening sequence sets the mood. One sees a curve in a road on a flat plain apparently somewhere out in the Mohave Desert outside of Los Angeles. One hears the rev of a sports car approaching. It’s a black Farrari. The driver slows down, turns, shifts, the engine revs as he speeds up and disappears. You hear the car engine quiet as the driver apparently approaches another turn, shift, and then hear the rev of the engine as he accelerates again. You hear the sequence again, and the black Farrari appears on the screen again after what appears to be a rather short circle. You hear the car engine relax again as the driver (off screen) turns the car again, shifts and accelerates, soon appearing on the screen once more, and the same 10-15 second cycle repeats two more times. Finally the driver, Johnny Marco, stops his car and gets out to perhaps take a new view of the same desert terrain that he’s driving around in circles for some time now. Not a word has been spoken, but the scene sets the tone for the rest of the film.

There are a lot of telling, poignant scenes with few to no words being said in this movie as Sofia Coppola lets her camera tell the story.

Johnny Marco is so bored that in one of the early scenes of the movie he’s hired a pair of blonde 19 year old pole dancers come to his rented suite in a relatively famous Hollywood retreat for the stars. Dressed in tight pink short-skirted outfits, they try to perform a rather cheesy “synchronized routine” on the poles that they brought with them. They do their routine to a song called “Who’s your hero?” Johnny falls asleep during their dance. The twins don’t seem to mind. Smiling as sweetly as they did through the whole of their performance, they disassemble their poles, put them into their tote bags and go home.

Perhaps embarrassed that he fell asleep on them, Marco invites the twins over a second time a few days later. This time they are dressed in checkered green, white and brown (plaid?) string bikinis. They’re smiling and pole dancing away again and Johnny Marco is straining really hard to stay awake for them this time. When they are done, he invites one of them over to his bed for a kiss. Of course, he gets her name wrong. She comes over for the kiss anyway, but blows a small bubble from the bubble gum that she’s been chewing into his face. Was she irritated, being playful or just vacuous? Regardless or perhaps feeling rejected, he crashes asleep again.

He wakes up to another blonde, who turns out to be his 11 year old daughter (played by Elle Fanning), signing her name on his cast. His ex had brought her over. One realizes that he’s apparently broken his arm some time earlier. Yet his 11 year old daughter is the very first to sign the cast.

The ex tells him that she’s going away for a couple of days and so to take care of daughter while she’s gone. Marco asks the 11 year old what she wants to do. The ex reminds Marco that the 11 year old has a figure skating lesson that afternoon. Marco takes her to the lesson. The 11 year old skates happily on the ice. She’s not bad but it's clear that she's not exactly "Olympic caliber." Does Marco realize that his blonde 11 year old daughter had about the same amount of talent as those 19 year old pole dancers he had in his room before? Does he realize that those pole dancers were smiling as sweetly as his 11 year old was smiling now? Does he get it, that _his_ eleven year old could be dancing in the hotel room of a 40 year old 8 years from now?

This is a remarkable, gentle yet articulate movie.

One more vignette. During the course of the movie, Marco is invited to Italy to receive yet another film award. The ex is gone again, so he has to take his 11 year old along. They are lodged in a 5 star Italian hotel of one’s dreams with their suite having its own private adjoining indoor swimming pool. The pool is exquisite, mosaics and classical statues adorn its sides. Yet, as soon as the 11 year old jumps into the pool, it is clear that it is _too small_. She can only take two strokes before she reaches the other side. Marco tries to help her, giving her suggestions of what to do to keep from becoming bored – hold your breath, now swim the distance of the pool underwater – but to no avail. The pool is just too small. Back in Hollywood, the two go to the outdoor pool of the resident hotel where Marco is staying and lie down on the run-of-the-mill aluminum and plastic cots beside the pool, sunglasses on, face skyward and the scene extends out to infinity.

It is clear that what gives happiness to the 11 year old and life to her father _through her_ are things that are available to everyone.

Somewhere is a shoe-in for a nomination for best original screenplay at the Academy Awards and Sofia Coppola could get a nomination for best director as well.

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