Wednesday, January 19, 2011


I remember Quentin Tarantino speaking about Sofia Coppola's "Somewhere" at the Venice Film Festival awards show (where it won the Golden Lion; in the next year we'll learn what film it got stolen from), saying that he and his fellow jurors "kept coming back to it." I find that pretty hard to believe, since I saw "Somewhere" two days ago and I've already almost completely forgotten it. I don't really get it (except on, you know, that fabled "certain level") any more now then I did then. The prospect of understanding it is not something that entices me, since that would require for me to allot more of my time toward it and, even if I did, I'm almost positive that I'd be unsatisfied with what I'd learned from that experience.

Anyone remotely interested in seeing "Somewhere" will be better off watching "Lost in Translation," since that film sates what most people probably will be seeking in this film. Bill Murray's acting is superior to Stephen Dorff's in just about every way possible, despite the fact that Dorff could more easily pass as an action star than Murray could. Dorff has a small degree of pull as Johnny Marco, who spends all of his days drinking, watching pole dances in his hotel room, sleeping with any woman he can, and getting abrasive text messages from an anonymous source. He's unsatisfied, but, since he's not exactly the sharpest tool in the shed, he doesn't possess the willpower to really do anything about it.

He's not really in touch with the life of his daughter Cleo (Elle Fanning), since he doesn't have custody over her, but since his wife is on one of those trips that could end tomorrow or never, he (as they say in "Animal Kingdom") "gets to see more of her." Cleo and by way of virtue Fanning is winning, and that (as well as Dorff, to some degree) keeps the audience at least somewhat absorbed. But look: viewing "Somewhere" is basically watching people doing shit that you and I do all the time. Whether or not that's in the service of any sort of profound notion (read: it's not really), it is what it is. I'm not too sure that a normal person would really want to pay money to see that. Nor do I think most will be too enthralled in the film's scrutiny of Johnny, which manifests itself in long takes of strippers, cars circling racetracks, and cars driving down LA freeways (observed in follow-shots behind the car in exactly the same way as every film Harris Savides has ever shot). I had a little nostalgia for the week I spent in LA a few years back, playing ping-pong and swimming like the characters do in the film, but found little pleasure more than that.

I apologize that this review cuts to the quick a bit fast. I just was tired of practicing the same restraint that Coppola did. When she gets out of her own way, I think that she will continue to make films as good as "Translation." C

Note: Many were frustrated with "LiT" in the way I was with "Somewhere." My take is that the former was enjoyable and watchable and worth my time, and the latter wasn't, or at least much less so.


dontdoacidguys said...

Funny that: I saw Somewhere two weeks ago now, and much like Tarantino, I keep coming back to it. There are shots of that movie I haven't been able to get out of my head yet (to be fair, though, I'm a sucker for long, static shots done well, and the technical qualities of Coppola's films are undeniable). If I had more time, I'd probably literally go back to see it. But you know how it is: so many films to see, so little time.

I would be hard-pressed to say whether I like Somewhere or Lost in Translation better right now. I admire both of them quite a lot, and I'm not even sure I'm that interested in determining which one I like better, either.

Nick Duval said...

I'm perhaps being a tad harsh. But I just think of how a film like "The Time That Remains," which I disliked about as much as "Somewhere," still left me with something to think about.

I dunno. I like long takes as much as the next man, but Coppola applied them in an aggravating way. I was a little put off by the long shots of the strippers that went on and on and on.

Have you seen "Gerry" by Van Sant? I was a little bored by that, but what Harris Savides does in the opening scene (aided by beautiful music) is magical.

litdreamer said...

I agree that of the shots in Somewhere are static for too long and make Lost in Translation look like an action movie. Then again, her subject is ennui, and I believe Coppola to be the best director of ennui out there ("boredom" to those of you who don't speak French). I thought this film much better than you did, but it was lacking that spark that Lost in Translation had, perhaps because we come to care more about two people stuck in Tokyo than two people stuck in L.A.

Nick Duval said...

I agree with you totally on the "spark." As you said, the setting is different, and also, Murray is a much more watchable actor than Dorff. I originally was going to give this film a C+, but I realized I really didn't react that much to it at all.

From just looking at the Venice competition, "Black Swan" is better, and "13 Assassins," "Detective Dee," "Attenberg," "Post Mortem," and more look superior to "Somewhere." (Though I can tell you from seeing "Meek's Cutoff" that at least IMO it has a leg up on one film.)