REVIEW: Somewhere

20 06 2013

SomewhereI’m not a fan of Sofia Coppola’s films – including “Lost in Translation,” which plenty seem to admire without caring for the rest of her work.  I find them vapid, vacuous, insipid … I could go through the whole thesaurus, but I think you get the point by now.  Whether it’s modern Tokyo or 18th century Versailles, the worlds she chooses to portray are often skin-deep and superficial.

Yet in “Somewhere,” those things aren’t nearly as brutal.  Coppola points her camera at the world of fame and excess in the Hollywood celebrity culture, which is by nature skin-deep and superficial.  The film finds a better link for Coppola between story and style, making her particular touch a little more purposeful.

That doesn’t make the film any less vapid, vacuous, and insipid, however; it just feels a little less aimless.  Coppola is as self-indulgent as ever in “Somewhere.”  A part of me wonders if she accidentally labeled her rough cut as the final cut.  There are extended sequences of Stephen Dorff’s Johnny Marco just riding around in his car.  We get to watch his daughter, Elle Fanning’s Cleo, do her whole ice skating routine.  Oh, and some terrible strippers get to perform their whole routine, totally uncut.

The film’s story, if you can even call it that, revolves around Johnny’s empty lifestyle as he fails at being a father, husband, and a functioning member of society.  In other words, “Somewhere” is totally pointless.  But that’s precisely Sofia Coppola’s point.  And despite the fact that I was often times tormented and agonized by Johnny’s lack of purpose or direction, I could at least take comfort in knowing that the woman behind the camera had one.  C+2stars

Oscar Moment: “Somewhere”

21 09 2010

The big winner at Venice was “Somewhere,” which won the coveted Golden Lion there.  According to jury president Quentin Tarantino, the movie ” .  But does that mean anything?

The Golden Lion is hardly an indicator of Oscar success; the only winner to receive a Best Picture nomination in the prize’s history is “Brokeback Mountain” in 2005.  Other movies have received nominations, such as 2008 champion “The Wrestler” and 2004 winner “Vera Drake.”

In addition, the win for “Somewhere” was marred by accusations of favoritism and bias.  Here’s a report from the Los Angeles Times on the allegations:

..the Italian press has been in an uproar after it learned that some of the Venice Film Festival’s biggest prizes went to filmmakers with longstanding ties to jury president Quentin Tarantino. Sofia Coppola, who is close with Tarantino (the Reporter piece describes her as his former girlfriend), won the Golden Lion, the festival’s top prize, for her new film, “Somewhere.”

Hmmmm. Did Tarantino really stack the deck? I’d say it’s hard to make that charge stick. Having been on a few minor-league film juries in my time, I’ve learned that it’s really hard for a jury chief, even one as passionate as Tarantino, to prod a group of independent-minded film nuts into voting for any movie they didn’t really like. Tarantino might well have pushed through a special prize for Hellman, who is beloved by all sorts of film zealots — even some who’ve probably never seen one of his movies. But promoting a pal for a special prize is one thing; steering the jury into awarding Golden Lions to the wrong movies seems far-fetched to me.

So there’s no indication that the Golden Lion is going to help “Somewhere;” in fact, it may wind up hurting the movie.  But to make up for that, there’s the prestige power of Sofia Coppola, Academy Award-winner for her screenplay of “Lost in Translation.”  While I’ll keep my biases out of this piece (for my opinion on the filmmaker, see the most discussed piece on this blog, a review of the movie that put her on the map).  Granted, her shining moment on stage was for one movie.  Her other two directorial efforts, 1999’s “The Virgin Suicides” and 2006’s “Marie Antoinette,” failed to receive any serious awards attention.  The latter, in fact, was largely critically derided.

I’ll pose the question, and don’t think it’s because I have anything against Coppola: is there anything that leads us to think that this movie has a legitimate shot at any Oscars?

Critical response was tepid at Venice; “Black Swan” was the movie on everyone’s lips.  I’m not really getting the feeling that this could be an audience favorite either.  The plot, which revolves around a self-absorbed movie star (Stephen Dorff) required to take on responsibility for his young daughter (Dakota Fanning’s sister, Elle), feels like something we’ve seen before.  “The Game Plan,” the campy Disney movie, anyone?  I’m sorry to say that I don’t see many Oscar vibes emanating from that storyline.  Then again, if it’s told with brutal Coppola subtlety, the Academy will go gaga.

I see the movie’s best chances being in the acting categories.  Best Actor will be a tight field, but Dorff could sneak in if his performance is a breakout.  Jeremy Renner did it last year, and he can do it this year.  Elle Fanning could find her way into the Best Supporting Actress category, which seems to be pretty unformed at the moment with no clear frontrunner or sure-fire contenders.  Not to mention I’d LOVE to see the “SNL” sketch that shows the fit Dakota throws when her sister gets an Oscar nomination before she does.

Although I will give “Somewhere” this – if all else fails, the movie will have an awesome soundtrack.  If it’s produced by Phoenix, one of my new favorite bands, I’m willing to buy it.

BEST BETS FOR NOMINATIONS: Best Supporting Actress (Elle Fanning), Best Original Screenplay

OTHER POSSIBLE NOMINATIONS: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor (Stephen Dorff)