Sofia Coppola’s new film Somewhere is a beautiful example of restraint set within a world lacking restraint. Once again the writer-director chooses a setting that becomes almost another character, just as Tokyo did in Lost in Translation; Versailles in Marie Antoinette and now here the legendary hotel of Hollywood excess on Sunset Boulevard: Chateau Marmont. Harry Cohn, founder of Columbia Pictures said in 1939 “If you must get in trouble, do it at the Chateau Marmont.” (see my review of the hotel here).
Film star and action hunk Johnny Marco (sweetly played by Stephen Dorff) who chooses to live at the Chateau Marmont is bored. The opening scene shows him via a long take driving around a racetrack in his very sexy and very shiny black Ferrari. Like a demented fly, he circles and circles desperately searching for somewhere to go. When you think he can’t possibly make another lap, he does. It’s an uncomfortable scene as you realise you’re going to have to quickly shift down a gear to fully appreciate the tempo.
This is not a film for the impatient. In fact the film moves along at a snail’s pace but therein lies the beauty. Coppola isn’t in a hurry and it’s the stillness that’s so refreshing. Because it’s in the silences, and the long lingering shots of Stephen Dorff’s world-weary face, bottles of pills and a hair loss formula that litter his bedside table and bathroom, that we drink in his loneliness and vanity. There’s a party every night, girls on tap and pole dancers are sent up as part of room service. A funny scene involves two blonde identical twin pole dancers clad in red patent leather shoes and not much else, desperately trying to entertain our Hollywood A-lister in the privacy of his hotel room. His only reciprocation is to nod off.
Elle Fanning (sister of Dakota) plays Johnny’s 11-year-old daughter Cleo who comes to visit him at the hotel after her mother states that she wants a respite from parental duties. Elle is outstanding in the role and she and Dorff have such a believable chemistry; whether it’s hanging out playing The Police’s So Lonely on Guitar Hero or sharing a pretend underwater tea party. Their bonding is a real joy to behold and most importantly it rings true.
This is not just about the puerile world of celebrity, an absent parent or the pampered vagabonds who roam the Chateau’s chic corridors into the early hours, but about the tenderness of a father and daughter relationship. One of the best scenes in the movie sees Elle Fanning perform an hypnotic ice skating routine to Gwen Stefani’s Cool.
Somewhere scooped the Golden Lion award at the Venice Film Festival earlier in the year and I’m guessing there will be more accolades come the awards season next year. Simply sublime.