Sofia Coppola has ventured into themes surrounding identity and depression in the past so Somewhere takes a familiar approach to tackle this subject whilst saying much more than the audience anticipates. Stephen Dorff and Elle Fanning star as a Father/Daughter dynamic which challenges Johnny’s (Dorff) life as a high-caliber actor but opens a new way of living for daughter Cleo (Fanning). It’s an interesting concept even if it feels over-encumbered by revisited themes ladled with usual generic tropes.
Someone: We exclusively follow Johnny as the centerpiece of the narrative. Stephen Dorff, whilst not the most recognizable actor, does a great job of encapsulating the esteemed celebrity lifestyle. Coppola focuses on various close-ups of Dorff’s expressive acting style and really drills in the idea of depression and identity - his subtle expressions being mesmerizing for the audience. Further, underrated gem Elle Fanning (also only being eleven years of age during filming) gives such a genuine and grounded performance as Johnny’s daughter, Cleo. Possibly because of Fanning’s celebrity upbringing, she easily adapts to the glorified lifestyle becoming maturely accepting of her father’s messy routine creating alluring chemistry between the two. What is truly magical is that we feel like we’re only seeing a snapshot of Johnny’s world as Coppola creates a purely plausible world that could exist outside of the film.
Something: One of my favorite aspects of Sofia Coppola is the embedded themes she subtly injects into her filmography. In terms of Somewhere, Coppola’s unique direction echoes themes within Lost in Translation too heavily – isolation, identity, and parenthood. It can be argued that the themes within both films are revisited and making Coppola look like she’s using her previous works as a clutch for Somewhere. However, Coppola, being such a proficient director, revitalizes her direction style for Somewhere whilst remaining distinctly Coppola. Lost in Translation feels much more cinematic and enchanting whilst Somewhere gives a more disciplined approach and often feeling socially realistic making both films profoundly different.
Somehow: To further the realistic approach, Coppola utilizes longer takes and minimal music to properly ground the audience. And because of this, there are moments of boredom dotted across the film which detracts from the overall performance. Alternatively, these moments are crucial for creating genuine empathy with Johnny and feeling shared thoughts – lack of purpose, existential anxiety etc. For that reason, I find myself once more praising Coppola for raising the directorial bar.
Somebody: Somewhere is a celebration of Sofia Coppola’s definitive career whilst raising concerns about mental health and estranged parenthood that can ultimately affect everyone. I can understand if this isn’t everyone’s cup of tea but most should definitely recognize the craftsmanship of the inner workings to create something magical. Oh, and there are some humorous cameos from Benicio Del Toro, Michelle Monaghan, and a pre-Solo Alden Ehrenreich.