Being the fan of Sophia Coppola that I am, `Somewhere' was my most anticipated film from last year. I literally could not wait to see it, so much so that I downloaded it to my computer months before it was released in theaters near me so that I could watch it.
For me, `Somewhere' doesn't quite live up to my expectations.
First things first, this is not a bad film at all. In fact, it is a very good film. Some of my friends have noted that they feel this is Coppola's most mature offering, and in many ways I totally agree. She has a beautiful knack for fleshing out the humanity in her stories with such graceful subtlety. She masters that here, allowing the fluid movement of the scenes to do most of the talking. While some would make sweeping statements that this is, `by far', we worst film, I can only half agree. While she shows definite maturity here, this is my least favorite of her films. In that same respect though, I can't say `by far' since the film is a very good film. I just found it too familiar. Coppola often regurgitates similar themes in her films, but she manages to make them feel fresh and unique to her own style. She doesn't quite manage that here. It drips with style (it is beautiful to look at and it moves with the grace and fluidity that we expect from Coppola) but it feels too rehashed to be anything monumentally moving. It felt like 'Lost in Translation' lite. I really liked it, and the performances are beautifully detailed, but the film itself reaches short of the greatness I was expecting.
The idea of being lost within your own life and trying to find an outlet, anything really to save you from yourself, is a great idea, but Sophia has done that four times over now and it shows on this film that she is running out of ways to make it feel soulfully individualized.
This just felt somewhat halfhearted.
And yet, I can't help but admit that had `Lost in Translation' not been released on '03 I'd probably be lauding this particular film as a masterpiece and placing it at the top of my personal ballot for Best Picture last year. Like I said, it's very good, but it is also very familiar.
But, one cannot overlook the glorious Elle Fanning and her marvelous contribution to this film. In fact, I would hand her a win over ANY of Oscar's nominated supporting actresses; in a heartbeat. I'm just going to post straight from a piece I wrote about her performance on my blog back in January.
"In Sophia Coppola's latest entry, `Somewhere', she cast the `other' Fanning girl, Elle, to play a fictional variation of herself (or I assume as much). While Coppola is one of my favorite working directors, I must say that the familiar nature of `Somewhere' was a tad underwhelming for me. That said; the naturally organic presence of Elle Fanning utterly blew me away. By merely doing nothing at all, Fanning does SO much with this character. Playing Cleo, the young daughter to Hollywood megastar Johnny Marco, Fanning isn't discomfited by her father's world. She isn't afraid to call a spade a spade (that stare at the breakfast table was superbly executed) and yet she realizes the nature of the world in which her father dwells and so she allocates herself to it with childlike ease. The construction of a Coppola film is already wildly organic in tone (it just flows in such a sublimely effortless manner) but Fanning adds so much weight to the film by relaxing right into the pace. Her character arc may seem oddly anticlimactic (also the signature ways of the director) but there is the sting of her presence that never quite goes away. You can feel her spirit moving her father to contemplate his own footsteps, and you understand why. It is less the notion that a child can reconstruct a parent and more the understanding that THIS child is something special to THAT parent. There is such intimacy presented in this performance (as well as Dorff's).
In fact, dwelling on Fanning's performance is making me appreciate the film more than I initially thought I did."
In the end, I like this movie and I highly recommend it. Sophia Coppola is a masterful director and I cannot wait to see what she delivers to us next. She understands the beauty of the human spirit and she weaves magic out of simplicity, which is something most directors don't bother to consider. I want her to branch out on her next project though. I want to see her step outside her comfort zone and prove to the world that she isn't one-track minded. I know she has more in her. As it is, she ranks very high for me and is probably one of my top five working directors today. With a little spice she could easily become number one.