Saturday, 9 April 2011

Film Review: Somewhere

Rating: 5.2/10 - Average

Today I have the honour of reviewing the latest film by the daughter of the legendary Francis Ford Coppola whose previous work was the critically acclaimed Lost In Translation. Sadly she is one of the few Hollywood female directors, the other being the Oscar winning Kathryn Bigelow, who are well respected in the industry without having to do romantic comedies or vampire/werewolf teen flicks (I'm looking at you, Catherine Hardwicke). See the full review after the jump.

Director: Sofia Coppola. Screenplay: Sofia Coppola. Producers: G. Mac Brown, Sofia Coppola and Roman Coppola. Executive Producers: Francis Ford Coppola and Paul Rassam. Cinematographer: Harris Savides. Score: Phoenix. Editor: Sarah Flack. Studio: Focus Features. Starring: Stephen Dorff, Elle Fanning, Michelle Monaghan, Chris Pontius and Simon Ventura. Running Time: 98 Minutes. Age Restriction: 13SNL.

The first thought that came to mind as the end credits started and I got up to leave the theatre was "What the hell was Quentin Tarantino smoking?" I absolutely refuse to believe that this was the best film to be screened at last year's Venice Film Festival. Not a chance. If he somehow was correct in awarding it the Golden Lion award for best picture and there was really nothing better on show, then the Venice Film Festival must surely be one of the worst in the world in terms of the quality of its entries. As a matter of fact, it should be avoided at all costs.But, judging by the controversy and uproar generated by his decision, including accusations of favouritism because he is good friends with the director Sofia Coppola, I sincerely doubt that this is the case. Which brings me back to my earlier question about Mr. Tarantino's smoking habits. Not to say that I know more about film and film making than he does, but sometimes the experts tend to over think the obvious and find deeper meaning where there is none to be found.

I can see how it is possible to think that this is a masterpiece: if you over-analyse it too much you might fool yourself into believing that it's a great film when in reality it is just about watchable. What is most disappointing about Somewhere is that based on it's premise alone it had the potential to be such a great film but Sofia Coppola somehow managed to miss the plot, pun intended. The film centers around the life of Johnny Marco (Stephen Dorff), a famous Hollywood actor who seemingly doesn't have much to live for besides driving his Ferrari, drinking beer and having sex with any and every willing woman. Luckily for him he stays at the Chateau Marmont hotel in West Hollywood, Los Angeles which is legendary as a kind of hang out spot for rock stars and therefore has no shortage of single young women eager to fornicate with. From the beginning of the film he seems doomed to live this monotonous, meaningless life forever until one day, out of the blue, his ex-wife/girlfriend decides to send his only child Cleo (Elle Fanning) to stay with him at the hotel for a little while until she goes to summer camp. Obviously this hotel is no place to raise a little girl and Johnny Marco is most definitely not a man who should be raising a little girl and so now you have this great set up to explore the potential clash between Johnny's desire to live out his debaucherous lifestyle as if nothing has changed and his responsibility as a father to have his daughter stay in a stable and safe environment. Such a great premise creates an expectation for a fascinating exploration of the rock star father - estranged daughter dynamic but in that regard the film falls flat on it's face.

Technically the film is very well made, as you'd expect from someone with the Coppola name. The main problem here is the bare bones and uninspired screenplay but the cinematography and even the directing are all pretty decent. Thing's could've turned out even better if they had cut a size able chunk off a few of the scenes because on more than a few occasions the film is, to put it bluntly, just plain boring. This feeling of boredom isn't helped by the fact that the lead actor Stephen Dorff doesn't quite have the charisma or gravitas that his character as a Hollywood superstar should have in Louis Vuitton trunk-loads. He is not entirely to blame for this though because his character was poorly written and is very one dimensional for 90% of the film. As a result, on the 10% of the time that he does show any genuine emotion, it just feels contrived and you the viewer couldn't be bothered to care for him. Once you don't care for a film's main character and their predicament, you stop caring about the film itself, and then your mind starts to wander off and you think to yourself maybe, just maybe, you'd better off having some of what Tarantino had.

VERDICT: A well made but emotionally barren and somewhat boring film that promises so much but delivers far too little.

Somewhere is out in selected Cinema Nouveau theatres right now.

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