‘Somewhere’ Review – It’s Always Sunny in California

Hollywood listlessness. The landscape looks bleached of all vibrant colors. Though you’re driving as fast (if not faster) than the others around you, you’re going in circles while they’re going forward.
That’s literally what Johnny Marco (Stephen Dorff) is doing as Sophia Coppola’s latest effort, Somewhere opens. For a solid three minutes, he drives his luxury car in circles on a track. We get it, it’s a metaphor.

Dorff is capable but a bit blank as Hollywood heartthrob Marco, who floats through his glamorous but ultimately empty routines. Everything is the same to him. Whether it’s publicity photoshoots, a synchronized strip-tease from blonde twins, an award from a flashy Italian ceremony or a hotel party hookup, Johnny Marco shows the same blase indifference to everything.

Fortunately for the jaded actor (and for us viewers), there is one shining beacon of happiness in his life: his daughter Cleo. Cleo (Elle Fanning) seems to be the bargaining chip in the calmly hostile relationship between Marco and his ex (wife? girlfriend?), and Fanning successfully walks the line that most child performers cannot. She is endearing without camp, and precocious without being sacchrine. Perhaps because Cleo seems to lack the whimsical nature of a child, she is the perfect onscreen foil to Dorff’s Marco. Between his liquor and pills, (of course) Marco kind of flops about his daily routine. Cleo, however, is precise in every movement. She makes a complicated breakfast for her father with the precision of a master chef, and ice skates beautifully, lacking all of the sass of an Olympic performer but displaying a patient and practiced skill.

Stephen Dorff and Elle Fanning as father and daughter. Photo Courtesy of IMDB

Unfortunately for the subtly engaging Fanning, she’s not given much screen time until halfway through the film. Getting the somewhat misleading buzz as a father-daughter story, it’s a shame Somewhere does not spend more time with the well-matched pair. Instead, the emotional centerpiece of the film is one we’ve seen countless times before.

Maybe this is a sentiment fueled by hipster blacklash, but perhaps it’s time to do away with films about how hard it is to be creative and skilled. That’s not to say that Somewhere is not well-done. On the contrary, (on paper at least) Coppola has made a fine film, with competent visuals that fit perfectly with the subject matter and, as previously mentioned, skillful performances. But the ability to engage with a character whose life is not actually hard is stretched even further in a film like this. We are not even told why Marco is so angsty. He just is. And while there’s nothing wrong with a little angst, I’d rather have less of that and more of the innocent fun of he and Fanning together. Then, not only would the film be more interesting as a whole, but it would up the emotional ante when it comes to the uncertain nature of Marco’s future with his daughter. Overall, while sweet and understated moments are plentiful throughout, Somewhere lands just askew of success. The film itself is also driving in circles; close but never quite getting to the sweet place that it could have.

While slow-moving in action and generally stagnant in emotional content, Somewhere is saved by the ultra-charming pair of Dorff and Fanning. B-

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