Somewhere Around Here

Susan O’Sullivan dishes up Cork Film Festivals final helping served by Sofia Coppola.

In the midst of movie star obligations and fast-living, our protagonist has been ambushed at his latest press junket by a journalist and asked, “Who is Johnny Marco?”  His bemused silence signals the tragic reality that emerges as we journey with him, in Sofia Coppola’s Somewhere, is that not even Johnny knows.

Receiving its Irish premiere at the closing night of the Corona Cork Film Festival, Coppola’s film delivers an unsettling and estranged narrative that illustrates that although Johnny (Stephen Dorff) is a successful actor surrounded and lauded by many, he is not immune to isolation and loneliness.

Essentially the first twenty minutes of the film are void of dialogue, so this film can be said to be one for loyal fans of the auteur herself.  The verbal sparseness made it all the more ruthless as we witnessed an emotional descent of a character sheltered by the superficiality of his home at the Chateau Marmont, which becomes a limbo of sorts, where every whim and desire is encouraged.

Though Johnny’s friend defends their antics on the grounds that “We were looking for adventure,” this is called into question once daughter Cleo arrives. Cleo offsets the sordid life her father has established.  Coppola captures their blossoming relationship as they transcend awkwardness to find emotional comfort and stability.

Things are not all bleak and depressing though, there are some very beautiful and hilarious moments throughout.  Hope is given in downtime when Cleo and Johnny escape the chaos of Hollywood’s alt-reality and find the sanctuary of their own underwater.

Benico del Toro makes a amusing cameo that references the infamous rumour that he hooked up with Scarlett Johansson in a hotel elevator, when he meets fellow thespian Johnny in said elevator.  Even amongst such intense content, it is good that Coppola has not excluded humour, which manifests even in dire circumstances.

I shall be frank and tell you that it is difficult to determine an immediate response to Somewhere. Though the main players, Dorff and Elle Fanning, deliver skilfully restrained performances that complement the honesty of Coppola’s trajectory, I left the gala unsure of how I felt with her latest offering.

In retrospect, through the muted action transpires a very affecting story.  This economy, also palpable in Lost in Translation, is the stylised technique that makes Sofia an accomplished director.  Through painful calculation, most particularly as we watch a plaster mould being fitted on Johnny’s face, Coppola emphasises the manipulation and destructive power of Hollywood where purpose is tricky to assuage.

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