Saturday, April 30, 2011
1. I'm not a fan of Sofia Coppola's movies, given that they generally eschew characterization, plot and originality in favour of the always-nebulous "style," which is like, 17th on the list of things I'm concerned about in a film. (In fairness, I haven't seen Virgin Suicides, which many feel is her best film.) "Somewhere," following the pattern, looks great is interestingly shot by Harris Savides, but it's as shallow as its characters. The idle rich aren't nearly as interesting as Coppola thinks they are -- or, specifically, idle rich actors not played by Bill Murray aren't as interesting as she thinks they are. The problem with 'Somewhere' is that Stephen Dorff (not a bad actor in his own right) is playing his Johnny Marco character as such a blank slate that it goes beyond the point of the film, which is that this guy is a blank slate. Actually seeing this point played out for 110 minutes gets pretty dang dry.
2. Directing/sequencing quibble...it was a bad idea to put the stripper twins' two dance routines and then Cleo's skating routine so close to each other. Yeah, I get the idea was to contrast them, but three elongated performances more or less all in a row really gets the film off to a slow start.
3. Who was Johnny's buddy that randomly shows up and seemingly has more charisma than anyone in the film?
4. Dorff and Elle Fanning had great father/daughter chemistry, so much so that I may have missed the point that their relationship was also supposed to be hollow. For instance, the scene where he has the hotel musician sing Cleo to sleep to a cover of Elvis Presley's "Teddy Bear." I thought that was just delightful, and a case of when Johnny's celebrity could provide his daughter with a unique experience. The movie's ending, however, seems to imply otherwise. I feel like Coppola's argument would be that Johnny should be singing lullabies himself, rather than farming the task out to a relative stranger. Likewise, Johnny's "I'm worthless" breakdown on the phone with Cleo's mother. I took it as Johnny realizing that he's only a real person with his daughter, but given how that scene followed a sign of some pretty shoddy parenting (Cleo breaks down in tears over her mom and Johnny's only reaction is to take her to Vegas), I feel I missed the point. This and stuff like Johnny's string of one-night stands certainly underscore the fact that Johnny ain't winning any Father Of The Year trophies, but Dorff and Fanning share so much joy in each other's presence that either it clouds the film's argument, or I'm just a terrible film analyst, and we all know that certainly can't be the case! *coughs*
5. The ending was laughable. Like, really, really bad. If I'd liked the rest of the movie, the ending was bad enough that it would've instantly ruined things. SPOILER ALERT -- Johnny is disgusted with himself and his life, so he checks out of his posh hotel, starts driving out into the country, parks his Ferrari by the side of a dirt road, gets out and just strolls away grinning. End of movie. The "he's giving up his Hollywood lifestyle!" idea could not have been underlined in a lazier, more obvious fashion. This ending failed on both a metaphorical and literal level; if Johnny really wanted to make a change, he could've just donated his car to charity. Or he could've given the car to a lovable tramp, with hilarious consequences.
6. The only highlight of 'Somewhere' was the fact that I saw it in Toronto's awesome Royal Theatre. This place is fantastic. It's a classic, old-school cinemahouse that's been around since the 30's. I highly recommend seeing a film at the Royal whenever you can, even if it's a self-indulgent movie directed by nepotism's poster child. Cheers to the Royal! Jeers to 'Somewhere' and this rusty tailgate!