Stephen Dorff is Johnny Marco, a movie star between projects. He lives at the swanky Chateau Marmont, which is sort of an upscale boarding house for celebrities located just off LA’s Sunset Strip. Pole dancers come and go, parties are held, pills are popped and one day bleeds into the next. In a more traditional movie a lifestyle epiphany would accompany the arrival of his 11-year-old daughter (Dakota’s little sister Elle Fanning) but this isn’t a traditional movie.
The movie plays like a tone poem rather than a conventional movie. Long stretches pass by without any dialogue, or even scenes that forward the story. But to be fair, “Somewhere” isn’t about story, it’s about establishing a feeling. Coppola spends virtually the entire 97 minute running time exploring the minutia of Marco’s empty life. It’s the de-glamorization of the Hollywood dream revealing the isolated and private life of a public figure.
Scenes, or rather, set pieces, amplify Marco’s seclusion. Bored looking strippers — complete with portable poles — come to his room, he throws parties filled with people he doesn’t know and passes out during some anonymous sex. There’s no joy, no celebration, just emptiness. Its ground Coppola has tread before (and better) in her other hotel based movie “Lost in Translation,” but here she adds large dollops of ambiguity. In an era where every celebrity foible becomes tabloid fodder Coppola chooses to underplay the underbelly of celebrity, neither playing up the allure nor amplifying the seediness. The lack of any real intimate moments renders the portrait incomplete, but Dorff’s melancholy performance adds depth to a basically superficial take on celebrity life.
Some will find “Somewhere’s” thinly carved slice-of-life approach self indulgent, others will think it is insightful but I found the style of the film, which overpowers whatever substance may be lurking beneath the pretty pictures, hypnotic.