It seems like a a weird parallel to make, but for the first third of Sofia Coppola's Somewhere- and sometime onward - I couldn't stop thinking about Rob Marshall's Nine. Earlier this week Joe Reid (of the hip and funny Low Resolution) tweeted that it's difficult to accuse a movie centring on aimlessness of aimlessness and it brought me back to Guido Contini's indecisiveness and Marshall's conceit of framing the entire film in that same interlude of vacillation of his protagonist. It's something that the critics didn't take too kindly to. And, although, the critical reaction to Somewhere hasn't been as irresolutely damning, it hasn't been particularly positive either; which is a pity. Like Nine, though the ostensible indolence of the protagonist seems to suggest a film with no point - and ultimately no merit - Coppola's Somewhere -- is a film created with aplomb and evidence that films need not have an overreaching "point" to be good.
Judging from how harsh my grade reactions to most films seem, you'd think that I expect a film to present me with much in order for me to appreciate it. But, I'm not in support of the idea that film - or any other artwork - should give us some seminal perspective on life and the issues we face in it. When it comes Somewhere it probably emerges as devoid of any significant "answers" to the big questions in life, but Somewhere is an ultimately internal exercise. Even though Jack's Hollywood problems seem to exist as an allegory for any random actor in Hollywood Coppola is least interested in Hollywood as a character and easy to discern that his profession - like a host of things he experiences - is just incidental. It's the sort of script that demands an actor who's a bit of an anomaly, someone able to externally establish things that should be internalised without making it ostentatious. One of the hooks that that didn't immediately jump out at me was the pair of strippers who come to dance for Jack. Dorff's expression is one of wanness that's jarring - not only because of the potential inappropriateness (considering the, situation) but because that's an expression he seems to have on his face *a lot*. You'd be wrong if you think that that's evidence of Dorff's limitations, though. It's an awareness of character that's striking and especially profound.
Considering the staidness of the first third we can't help but welcome the presence of Elle Fanning which elicits something else in John that's even more appealing. It's also this portion of the film where I'm most impressed with Coppola's decisions. It's difficult to identify any significant activity that Jack and Cleo do together, but for the duration of their time together I realised on more than a few occasions that I had a lopsided grin on my face. Coppola gives the characters so much room to breathe it's almost as if she's not there and we really are voyeurs in the life of a celebrity. And with such a decision, the inevitable question would be - to what end does she do this? But that would be missing the point altogether. Perhaps, I'm being altogether too insistent on finding something to "aha" at - but when Jack's friend talks about finding his sister's diary and reading it aloud to music my mind ran away with me. Is Somewhere, simultaneously alluring and languid, the would-be scenes from the diary of a movie star? You know I'm altogether too over analytical to my own detriment but it's a conclusion that satisfies even if those final few bars of the Jack's swan song (am I being hasty again, there?) spoil it a bit for me. That final expression on Dorff's face is the solitary moment where I think he's misjudging the character - the vaguely smug look on his face seems evocative of how I'd expect Coppola is looking just before the credits roll. But considering that the 85 minutes that went before were as beautifully subdued as necessary I'll forgive it that.