Reviewed By Rob Gonsalves
Posted 01/10/11 11:12:46

"Lost in repetition."
3 stars (Average)

"Antoniennui." That's the waggish term that Village Voice film critic Andrew Sarris coined to describe the frozen alienation in the work of Michelangelo Antonioni. Sofia Coppola's "Somewhere" not only depicts a man in the throes of Antoniennui but suffers from it itself.

As Johnny Marco, a movie star wandering from his hiding place at L.A.'s Chateau Marmont to Italy and back again, Stephen Dorff is as much a zombie as any movie creature that ever munched on brains. Dorff isn't bad in the role, but Coppola's conception gives him precious little to project. Johnny just drifts through his days and nights. Sometimes eager women present themselves to him, sometimes not. He's the opposite of a diva he doesn't want anything.

This was not true of Bill Murray's character in Lost in Translation, Coppola's previous run around this track of celebrity disengagement. It's possible, of course, that there's more going on in Murray as an actor than there is in Dorff. But we felt that Murray's Bob Harris, similarly adrift in a foreign land, had desires, however unacknowledged or unspoken. Johnny has nothing. At some points in the movie, he hangs out with his eleven-year-old daughter Cleo (Elle Fanning), who already seems more developed as a person than Johnny is. We sense a vague chumminess between them but not love; it's as if they're both holding back because they both know Johnny can't really love.

Fairly or not, I would classify Somewhere as interesting, yet boring. The particular anecdotes Coppola chooses to spotlight, the filmmaking that makes us lean towards it rather than being battered by obviousness these all lift the film above the usual Hollywood bummer. Sofia Coppola is a gifted director: she has clear and present control over mood and milieu; she gets the performance she wants out of Dorff and a much more endearing and revealing turn from Fanning. But the script is undercooked. People complained that "nothing happened" in Lost in Translation, but drama roiled under its placid surface. Here, though, there's no drama, no conflict. We do get two tearful scenes near the end, but Cleo's touches us more than Johnny's.

When the film moves outside, following Johnny's space-age car around the desert or over the freeway, there are images of uncanny beauty. Cinematographer Harris Savides can take a bow. And there were times that I felt the pull of depression that might plague a star like Johnny, who can have anything he wants but has had so much he doesn't want anything any more. The movie isn't a train wreck it sustains its smothering Antoniennui. But I was left wondering why it was made and why Coppola didn't know she had already made it, only better. The suspicion arises that the alienation of the rich is all she knows or, to put it generously, that it's her subject, the one she returns to again and again.

But she finds nothing new in it here except the daughter, and I suspect I'm not alone in thinking "Somewhere" would be a better film if it had been Cleo's story. Maybe next time.

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