Sofia Coppola needs to grow the fuck up. She’s on her fourth feature film and she’s still working out daddy issues with all the aplomb of a molested film student. Gee, it’s a real goddamn shame your father handed you a career and opportunities on a silver platter to the detriment of his own fucking career. She’s made 1 1/2 decent films, and the rest are nestled like Lady Gaga in a smug bundle of self-entitlement and dresses made of feathers and T-bones. If Marie Antoinette was all show and no substance, Somewhere doesn’t even have the show. It’s a nothing of a film, a whiny pity-party without the benefit of a party. A famous Hollywood actor explores the emptiness and meaningless of his life and regrets not spending enough time with his young and talented and sweet daughter. It’s like Lost in Translation choked on TMZ and vomited up hunks of the disillusionment of celebrities. Coppola not only expects us to feel empathy for a man who has everything — food brought up at a whim, constant sex with anyone he makes extended eye contact with, million dollar paydays, junkets to Italy, and a daughter who adores him — but to feel bad for Coppola herself, since the daughter character represents her. It’s bad enough it’s elitist, but it’s also incredibly boring and bursting at the seams with overblown metaphors and generic indie music. Somewhere would make a terrible first feature, and yet it’s Coppola’s fourth fucking film. It lacks any maturity, and mopes around the stage like open mic night at a teen goth poetry slam. Some films you want to take out back of the middle school and get pregnant, but this one you want to take to a turnpike toll booth and machine gun it until it can’t give birth to any more abominations unto cinema.
Johnny Marco (Stephen Dorff) is famous, and it’s just super duper hard, you guys. He practically lives at the Chateau Marmont, a swank Hollywood motel. Twin strippers come to his hotel room to gyrate on poles while he dozes off. He goes to parties and shindigs where a lowering of the sunglasses causes immediate lowering of the panties. His best friend Sammy (Chris Pontius, Jackass) slumps around with him as he plays Rock Band and chills out. He goes to press junkets, he’s invited to Italy for awards presentations, he gets to tool around in fast cars. But his life is just really, really sad. It’s empty and meaningless and boring. He just can’t seem to find any sort of joy. The only bright spot is his 11-year-old daughter, Cleo (Elle Fanning), who dances ballet and does swimming and can cook a mean eggs Benedict. And so he tries to connect with this daughter he really, really loves, but you know, can’t find time for since he’s so busy being depressed and lonely while publicists and studios run his life. A damn shame, huh?
Someone compared Somewhere to The Wrestler, and I can only imagine it was someone for whom sentient thought isn’t a regular occupation. Maybe there’s a case, because I definitely wanted to hit Dorff over the head with a folding chair in practically every scene. Randy the Ram was wildly famous, and then fell from glory and his life fell apart. He clawed his way up from the bottom, through poverty and misery, trying to recapture glory and the daughter he abandoned. Johnny Marco has everything, EVERYTHING, and his struggle is to not be bored. Randy the Ram had to take falls through folding tables and get choked with barbed wire so that he could barely make rent on a trailer. Johnny Marco’s biggest problem seems to be that constant model sex is boring and he needs better video games. I’d make a joke about it being hard out there for a pimp, but pimps actually have to do work sometimes.
For Coppola to insinuate this was inspired by her relationship with her father speaks volumes. Because the daughter character is barely in the film, except to get toted out like a puppy for a few moments here or there. The moment when the two separate is heartwarming and noteworthy, if only because nothing else of note ever fucking happens in the film. Cleo is a darling: she never whines, she’s always sweet, she takes care of her father and his sketchy hobo friend, and she’s immensely talented. Her parents are divorced, and her mother is a space cadet who drops Cleo off at the hotel and then decides to run off. No, I get it, I get it, she’s the only thing that brings him joy and he doesn’t know how to love her — it’s a fucking alt-country song just waiting to twang. But that’s the extent of the subtext. If Cleo wasn’t perfect, if there were moments where we got to see behind facades, it’d be excellent. But Coppola’s too busy smirking at her own self-indulgent satisfaction and alleged allegory to bother adding any more depth. She really, really wants people to feel bad for her. I have plenty of bad feelings for her after watching this film.
Actingwise, it’s hard to say, because there’s so little of anything going on, it’s practically impossible to judge talent. Dorff gives an effortless performance — he expends absolutely no effort. I think he cries once, so good for him. He probably saw the dailies. Elle Fanning is not Dakota, which is somehow a shame and to her advantage. They needed a cute tween blonde in a sundress who could also nail her “I cry one time” scene, and she’s a darling. I actually love the fact that Chris Pontius is in this film because it’s pretty much an overwhelming representation of why I hated this film so much. Pontius made his fame through stunt work, showing his ass and getting mauled for the amusement of the Jackass loyalists (myself fervently included). It’s kind of a talent. In the film, all he does is mutter in that slurring half-stoned smartass giggle that he usually does, which explains why he’d be following a guy who does nothing all day. He’s done it with Johnny Knoxville, he’s done it with Steve-O, he’s done it with Bam Margera, so why not with Dorff? In fact, if Elle Fanning suddenly clocked Dorff in the crotch with the guitar controller and then antiqued him in the face with flour while Pontius laughed in the background, this could have been a sketch from Jackass. Except then, something would have actually happened.
Somewhere goes abso-fucking-lutely nowhere. It’s a melancholy whine sustained over too many minutes, a “you guys just don’t understand how hard it is to be rich and famous” pout with a jutting lip just begging to be shat on by a bird. This seems to be the year where I’ve finally had enough of these fucking directors who I defended: Kevin Smith and Cop Out, Shayamalan raping The Last Airbender, and now Coppola with this trite tripe. How someone can honestly believe that we would take pity on a superstar who’s biggest issue seems to be that he can’t find meaningful ways to spend free time actually is a testament to the damage done to Sofia Coppola by her upbringing. With the keening Chipmunk autotune of Willow Smith’s “Whip Yo Hair” bleeding festively from my ear canals, I can’t wait for the days when I attain fame and glory so that my kids don’t actually have to try anymore either.