Plot goes nowhere in “Somewhere”

Plot goes nowhere in Somewhere

“Somewhere” revolves around the relationship between Johnny Marco (Dorff) and his young daughter Cleo (Fanning).

Keegan Swenson, Staff Writer

The opening shot of “Somewhere” has a black 2009 Ferrari drive past the camera and continue on around a track. It leaves the shot for a few seconds but the viewer can still hear its engine in the distance. The car continues to drive around the track for two full minutes. This film demands patience, both visually and emotionally, from the viewer.

“Somewhere” which won the Gold Lion, the highest honor at the Venice film festival, was directed by Sofia Coppola (“Lost in Translation,” “Marie Antoinette,” and “The Virgin Suicides,”) it centers around Johnny Marco (Stephen Dorff), a Hollywood actor who begins to reconnect with his daughter Cleo (Elle Fanning) because his ex-wife needs a break from raising her.

To describe the plot would bore any reader because the film doesn’t bother with a broad story or easy-to-understand characters. Instead it focuses on select individuals, and though nothing spectacular happens to them during the course of the movie, we slowly begin to understand who they are and why they are that way.

Coppola’s best films have dealt with main characters that for whatever reason seem to suffer from anhedonia, the inability to feel any pleasure. Johnny Marco may just be Coppola’s most miserable character yet who gains praise from fans and critics by starring in Hollywood action films for the sole purpose of financial success. However, none of this matters to Johnny. The camera often finds him staring off into space with a dull look on his face; he achieved the ultimate success but has forgotten how to enjoy it.

Stephen Dorff plays this character with a cold casualness, only allowing small moments of empathy. Immersing himself into this role so naturally, Dorff often makes the viewer forget how much work a performance of such quality takes. He finds the human inside of this character by not judging Johnny’s actions but simply by playing them.

We come to find that the only woman who matters to Johnny is his daughter Cleo, who shows up for a surprise visit one day resulting in a genuine smile on his face when he awakes to see her. Elle Fanning, sister of Dakota Fanning, also gives an unforgettable performance. She has an exuberance about her every line of dialogue; she repeatedly jumps in the air to show her excitement; she makes the perfect macaroni and cheese for her father. With these actions, Fanning is giving the character details that make this young girl seem completely authentic.

Throughout all of the scenes the film supplies small moments of tenderness: the game of Guitar Hero they play together, him watching her ice skate, sitting on a couch in a hotel while listening to the connoisseur play lovely guitar, her putting her head on his arm while they are driving together. In these moments Coppola shows her genius: the camera.

Coppola captures every moment and conversation in a perfect frame. Sometimes allowing the frame to drift off on the same image for over a minute, much longer than most filmmakers would even dare.

Coppola also crafted a soundtrack which comprises of a minimal amount of pop songs ranging from Phoenix’s “Love like a Sunset” to The Strokes “I’ll Try Anything Once.” Contrasting with her earlier work, these songs don’t stand apart from the actions happening on screen. Played at such a soft volume, the viewers have to close their eyes to hear the songs.

Though the plot, at times, seems non existent, “Somewhere” speaks volumes about the depression of the famous and the importance of human connection.