Madman Mundt and the Elf breakdown Sofia Coppola’s latest, Somewhere. The film is out in limited release in the US on December 22nd.
As I write this, there’s a little mantra running through my head: I WILL NOT BE SNARKY. I will not say that Sofia Coppola’s movies get made because her dad is you-know-who. I will not say that this film won the top prize at the Venice Film Fest because she used to date jury head Quentin Tarantino. Nope. I want to support female directors, and a few months ago, when I read all the comments about her winning Venice because of her daddy and her ex I thought those haters just sounded bitter and jealous, and possibly misogynistic. I loved Virgin Suicides (she had great source material), didn’t mind Lost In Translation (well, I didn’t hate it with a seething passion), and despised Marie Antoinette. I think she has a certain style and great taste in music. But if this woman makes one more movie about vacant, wealthy people doing vacant, boring things, I may have to do something drastic. Like scream. Unfortunately with Somewhere, she doesn’t even have the benefit of her longtime cinematographer Lance Accord to give it that signature pastel, hazy look that I actually thought made her past movies slightly interesting. This film looks about as dull as its subject matter, which may be deliberate but it sure ain’t cinematic. And like Lost in Translation and Marie Antoinette the main character is a wealthy, spoiled person who is oh-so-bored with their wealth and privilege – so bored that we’re expected to really FEEL for them. This time instead of a bored blonde chick it’s a bored Stephen Dorff (seriously, she couldn’t cast someone more interesting?) playing a famous actor who has to take care of his bored, blonde eleven year old daughter for a while. Everyone is bored. In France, boredom is more interesting, that’s why it’s called ennui! Watching Lost In Translation I wanted to scream at the screen: “stop fucking whining and get out of your hotel room girl! You’re in freaking TOKYO!” Sheesh. This time the characters are bored poolside at the Chateau Marmont. Bored in Italy. Bored in their sports cars. Let me just take a deep breath and calm down now.
You know, I had no idea she dated Tarantino, nor that the movie won top prize in Venice. The fact that it won any prize is astounding to me. But neither fact affects my feelings on this movie at all. While I was actually one of the three people that liked Marie Antoinette, and among the legions who loved Lost in Translation, I have to say Somewhere is one giant piece of cinematic turd. I don’t mind the subject matter — I think if done well, a story about a rich and famous movie star dealing with profound ennui could be a great flick, especially if done by someone who’s proven to be so adept at capturing that feeling of being lost and ungrounded in a world of opulence. The problem is it’s just a bad movie. Bad. I think a major reason for that is the casting of the always horrendous Stephen Dorff. Dorff’s career was so poorly navigated, and filled with such bad (and poorly acted) movies, that to Dorff a film actually became a verb in college. That’s why when I read that Coppola had cast him as the lead I was shocked, but also a bit intrigued. I thought, ‘Wow, did she see something in him that I — and the rest of Hollywood and the movie going universe — hadn’t? Could this be the film that resurrects the cold and limp cadaver that is his career? Could Somewhere be to Dorff what Pulp Fiction was to Travolta?’ The answer is a profound no, no and no. Would Somewhere be better if Benicio Del Toro played the lead instead of a mere cameo? Definitely. Would it have saved this shitflop? Unlikely.
Hit the Jump to continue reading Mundt and Elf’s Somewhere review…
Shitflop is my new favorite word. I agree I think Coppola probably had a Tarantino-Travolta career resurrection in mind, and if Dorff possessed the talent to pull that off I would tip my cute new black beanie to him. Alas, the beanie shall remain on my head. What a missed opportunity though! Hell, I bet Corey Feldman would have been more interesting in this role. Seriously. I’ve never thought she was great at pulling performances out of actors, and I always get the feeling her “technique” is to let them do whatever the hell they please and not give them much direction at all. Hence Kirstin Dunst slouching her way through Virgin Suicides, Scarlett Johannson moping her way through Lost in Translation, and again Dunst slouching through Marie Antoinette. I give her credit for getting Bill Murray in Lost in Translation, but that’s where it ends. There’s the common saying that good directing is 90 percent casting, and the proof is in the pudding: this woman casts the people she hangs out with at parties in the Hollywood hills, rather than trying to find people who can actually act. Rumor is that Clint Eastwood barely gives his actors direction, but he knows how to cast a flick so he can get away with it. There’s a real laziness to all of her films in that department and after seeing Somewhere I hereby renounce my penchant for giving her the benefit of the doubt. She’s not Antonioni (who could make an existential crisis interesting), just because her last name is Italian. She can’t just point her camera at her friends and pick awesome music and call it a film. She can’t fool me any more.
Totally — it’s one thing to let Bill Murray sit on a couch staring off into nothing, because for some reason his empty stare speaks volumes. Call it charisma, call it acting, call it presence. I don’t know why, but I get it. Stephen Dorff sitting on a couch for 5 minutes, however, does not speak volumes — in fact, it doesn’t say anything at all. No wait, it does say something — it says ‘Shut off the TV’, because this movie’s dead.