Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Somewhere in a Golden Cage

Director Sofia Coppola´s fourth exquisite feature, "Somewhere", is a careful and meditated look into the world of hedonism and material opulence. No doubt Coppola is partly describing her own upbringing within one of the royal families of modern cinema, yet she does not make a loud statement. There is no direct judgement or defense for the main character or his actions. We, as audience, are being shown, not told, what the life of a modern highly successful Hollywood movie star is, in all its glory and gloom.

Johnny Marco ( Stephen Dorff) is an accidental winner in this life. Or so it seems. He has it all: money, girls, abundance of free time and a celebrated position as a successful actor. Yet he has stumbled into it almost by accident, not having even really worked for it. The film starts with a lingering vision of a black sports car driving aimlessly back and forth in a desert. Clearly, this is the culmination of life in excess: there is nowhere else to go except back and forth.

The camera moves slowly and dreamlike, almost like enticing us to join the trance that has become Johnny Marco´s life. Most days he spends smoking, drinking, doing drugs and picking up girls. Women throw themselves at him, and he does not seem to recognize them as individuals anymore. For Johnny, desire has become obsolete, as it would require delayed gratification. All his wishes are being met, even before he states them. The world revolves around him, leaving him void of need or aspirations. The emptiness is tangible, and Marco has made a home for himself in a hotel, living the permaholiday life we all seem to crave sometimes.

The dialogue is far and between in this film, and mostly Coppola wants us to think for ourselves. She is careful not to give us any  direct explanations, yet inviting us to look more carefully at the soft images being thrown around the screen.

Before we start completely feeling sorry for the man, an 11-year-old daughter is being shown to us. She lives with her mother, occasionally visiting his child-like father in his bubble of a life. Somehow Cleo (Elle Fanning) has managed to make sense of the life of excess, and clearly enjoys the perks it offers without succumbing into the vacuum of entitlement. She has some life skills, making dinner for his father in the "hotel home" and practicing ice skating during nights. She is a semi-mother to her father at times, an adoring daughter at other times.

The problem with the beautifully shot and aesthetically pleasing film start at this point. What is actually the point of Cleo visiting his father´s life? Is he going to change, and if, for what? Is the message of "children are the only thing that matters in life" deep enough to sustain our interest into the overall story? What does
Marco´s existence and discourse on celebrity has to say about this modern society? Clearly, Coppola has given us a great effort, but it truly leaves us "Somewhere", not showing us enough to start a discussion.


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