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For all its restraint, slice-of-life naturalism and superb soundtrack, this is a film and a mood that you can sink into like a deep, comfy sofa.
By Alice Tynan
December 20, 2010
By Alice Tynan
December 20, 2010

Under a crisp blue sky, a black Ferrari careens in circles around a dusty track. It circles, and circles, and circles.

If you're bored already, then chances are you won't fancy taking a trip to Sofia Coppola's Somewhere. Shot in long takes, this languorous, intimate and shamelessly introspective film is in many ways created as a companion piece to Lost in Translation; another story that could easily be lumped under the title 'first world whinge,' were it not so beautifully crafted.

Ensconced in the plush purgatory of the Chateau Marmont, listless and lost celebrity Johnny Marco (Stephen Dorff) whiles his time away in semi-drunken stupor, his only company being whomever he can lure into his bedroom, and the occasional phone call from his agent. Then one day Johnny wakes up to find his 11-year-old daughter Cleo (Elle Fanning) sitting on his bed, and in her company Johnny starts to notice, and then to question, the gilded cage he has crafted for himself.

Somewhere is time-image cinema in the vein of Michelangelo Antonioni. This essentially means: don't expect much to happen, it's all about sinking into the atmosphere that Coppola quietly, expertly conjures. Coppola, with her remarkable cinematographer Harris Savides (Elephant) and accompanied by original music from her partner Thomas Mars of Phoenix, together have crafted a piece of contemplation as cinema. It won't work for everybody, particularly those who can't quite dig up some empathy for a character tantamount to a poor little rich boy. But here Coppola is both aware and unapologetic — the jets, the glamorous hotel suites, the press junkets — it's her world and she's recreating it intricately and self-reflexively.

Dorff benefits from similarly reflexive casting, where his own faded celebrity almost becomes a cautionary tale for Johnny. Drunk, bewildered, and eventually yearning, Dorff brings Johnny to life with compassion and pathos. He is however routinely upstaged by the glorious Elle Fanning, whose fresh-faced performance delights, and who manages to hit her emotional mark with much more conviction than her costar. But their chemistry is wonderfully understated and in a testament to Coppola's assured direction.

For all its restraint, slice-of-life naturalism and superb soundtrack, Somewhere is a film and a mood that you can sink into like a deep, comfy sofa. This languid ambiance is threatened by the film's comparatively overstated ending, for in crafting the conclusion to the opening metaphor, Coppola unfortunately goes for the glaringly obvious. It feels like a disappointing misstep, but even this is not quite enough to spoil the reverie.

*Advance screenings at select cinemas on Christmas day

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