Somewhere (2010)


On the matter of Sofia Coppola: I gave and give the benefit of the doubt to Lost In Translation; I even gave and give the benefit of the doubt to Marie Antoinette, which is a movie I enjoy more every time I see it, despite any amount of central miscalculation. But this, I fear, really is a bridge too far.

Not that its meandering, episodic, inconsequential structure is radically different from that of Lost In Translation, but what does seem unwise is Coppola's desire to pare the template down still further, and try to get beneath that film's cosmetic distractions: the lush visuals, the swooning music, the overt comedy, the charismatic players. This is Translation stripped to its bare bones: imagine if Bob Harris was nothing like as agreeable as Bill Murray, if he never met anyone a fraction as engaging as Scarlett, if he never went anywhere as interesting as Tokyo, if he commanded even less of our sympathy... then, basically, you'll have Somewhere: a disaffected actor, his aimless life, his slightly but not overtly alienated daughter and what little they get up to.

If this kind of fill-in-the-blanks filmmaking really is your thing, then most of Coppola's strengths are in evidence here: the naturalistic ease of her actors, the keen eye for the small but telling detail, the tiny hints of deeply suppressed emotion. The performances carry conviction, especially Elle Fanning as the daughter.
But if, like me, you felt that Lost In Translation was good but just not that good, you'll probably be more aware of the absences: no lively score, no unusual locations, no stars with anything approaching Murray's gift for making something surprising of any line, nobody you can just sit and stare at like Johansson. The overall effect is distancing where Translation was seductive, numbing where Translation was hypnotic.
It picks up considerably in the brief interlude that most overtly recalls the earlier film - a trip to Italy and an appearance on Italian television - and a long sequence in which Dorff is covered in plaster to create a life mask suddenly catches the butterfly of compulsive emptiness that the rest of the film snatches at in vain. But for most of the time it just happens in front of you, whether you're watching it or not.