An Orchestra of Crickets
Starring: Stephen Dorff, Elle Fanning
Written by Robert Patrick
“Somewhere” is one of those psychological exercises in viewer patience. Director Sofia Copolla wants to know how long a theater patron can abstain from looking at their watch. The movie is really inanimate, listless, full of everything and containing nothing. The film is supposed to seem redundant and stoic, Coppola will argue, because our protagonist, a movie star without an iota of happiness or energy in his own life, is just as stagnate and boring. “Somewhere” is an essay about vacuity in the movie industry, a sardonic love letter to Hollywood. Where does that leave us, the audience? “Somewhere” is one of those Lars Von Trier movies, like “Funny Games”, where you’re not meant to enjoy but to observe. These are thesis papers that you are paying to read, err, watch. The plot, in a nutshell, is that Stephen Dorff plays an actor who spends his days watching the limbs of women do a cat’s cradle around around stripper poles. The grizzled actor spills more beer than the factory line at Budweiser does, trips at parties, and falls asleep like a housecat. Eventually his daughter, played by Elle Fanning, shows up and spends time with her playboy father. The two grab some rays together, eat lots of breakfast food, slap the metal whammy bars on videogame guitars. All of this is done, mostly, without much conversation or camera movement. You could set up a camera yourself, leave it in one spot on a sofa cushion, and film a wall for two hours – this would be about as animate as Coppola’s newest theatrical sedative.
Most of the film runs together, because nothing really happens, and we’re stuck watching scenes repeatedly do nothing. This movie is the cinematic version of sitting at the DMV. I’m sure Coppola aspired to make a film that was a touchstone of emotion, by showing that some of her contemporaries have none, but she’s stuck behind the eightball the whole movie because of the lackadaisical method in which her opus is shot – her personal achievement is also her shortcoming. The director’s last film wasn’t fantastic – “Marie Antoinette” had more holes in it than a noodle strainer – but it was at least propped up on the shoulders of interesting stylistic choices. I don’t think Coppola is a bad director, no, but I think she doesn’t know how to channel her talent. She is almost like a sharpshooter whose scope isn’t set properly. I do adore her use of music in all of her films, however, and think that, even in the daft mess that is “Somewhere”, she manages to patch some of the leaks with interesting song selections.
Dorff and Fanning, in the roles that they are given, do all they can to make the movie work. I can imagine them, in my mind, rowing with all of their might, even though they have splintered oars, while trying to make this project work. They look the part, feel the part, but the part is one that is so inane and inconsequential that one doesn’t quite care. The purpose of “Somewhere” is to show a character whose entire being is detached from reality. In films, typically, you are supposed to, in some way or another, find a relatable quality to your character – even if they are borderline reprehensible. Here, there is nothing to cling on to: you cannot climb a rock without grooves or inundations. Coppola has clearly made the anti-movie, something that would better be served as an opinion piece in Film Comment or Premiere. Technically there is nothing to speak of because the camera films the backs of its actors, the televisions they look at, or the cars that they drive. I cant ask myself what the purpose of the film is, because I know what it is, I just cant justify it existing in this medium.