30 December 2010 | oOgiandujaOo_and_Eddy_Merckx
Technically a well-made character study, but difficult to care for
In a nearby safari park the wardens have taken steps to alleviate depression amongst the gorillas, they hide their food from them or leave it in hard to get places; this saves the gorillas having to sit around, eat, copulate and vegetate. Hollywood A-lister Johnny has this gorilla depression, everything he could possibly want comes at the end of a telephone call. Even the most difficult banana of all, sex, is available by scratching the back of his neck and signalling his assent, or at the end of another phone call if he's feeling especially lazy (which is often).
I once heard it said that rich people live years in the span of a single day, and Johnny certainly does have that flow of experiences coming at him, but the problem for him is that there's no feeling (let's all take a moment to have a boohoo for Johnny). He can barely stifle yawns when his eleven-year-old daughter Cleo, on a custody visit, shows him how she has become a brilliant ice skater and cooks him perfect eggs Benedict for breakfast. Life's too easy and it's suffocating him. There is a suspicion that he's a fluke, that his surfer-boy looks and beatific smile have carried him to the top, but I think there must have been some drive once, as evidenced by a faltering but very pretty rendition of Bach's Goldberg Variation #1.
Ultimately, Johnny Marco has the kind of problems that everyone else wants, and so it's very difficult to feel for him. The movie doesn't have any contrast either, none of the harsh realities of normal Californian workaday lives makes it to the screen. After the decadence of Marie Antoinette I kind of wondered whether Sofia was aware of normality, or whether she just grew up in Arcadia with the other film kids who turn up in the special thanks section at the end of the credits. Johnny Marco is probably the most complacent human alive, but the film doesn't exactly scream that, perhaps because Sofia Coppola doesn't know it. Another flaw is that Coppola's alter-ego Cleo has a decidedly airbrushed personality.
The detail was a big highlight of this film, time seems to have been spent getting the authenticity of the trappings of wealth. Johnny has a bottle of Château Pétrus on the bedside table (retails from $1,000 to $30,000 depending on vintage), chambréed to vinegar, and propped up on a wall is a lithograph by that master of Californian alienation, Ed Ruscha ("Cold beer, beautiful women", $10,000 to a cool million depending on whether it's a limited edition lithograph or the original painting). Other nice details give you insight into character, including a pill bottle of Propecia in his bathroom (prevents male pattern balding), which says he's worried about the onset of middle age, and the player name he has on his games console, 20thCenturyBoy, a sign that he's become his persona.
The cinematography is the second plus, though it's not exactly adventurous the filmmakers were prepared to let the action drift out of shot when they felt like it.
I think Somewhere is a difficult film to watch twice because there's very little connection for a non-wealthy person, the film's torpor has a complacent lull to it which is a little hard to bear. Thematically, I'm not convinced that I've seen mature filmmaking from Sofia Coppola yet.