Somewhere focuses on a movie star living in the fast lane of excess with booze, cars and blonde twins with portable stripper poles, but it’s not until he begins spending more time with his 11-year-old daughter that he realizes he’s actually going nowhere. That’s precisely where he’s going in the film’s opening, a long shot of him driving his Ferrari around some desolate race track.
While Johnny Marco (Stephen Dorff) certainly enjoys the fruits of his labor, you can tell he’s not an actor by trade. He dresses like a mechanic with pocket t-shirts and Levis that don’t even fit him very well, and he doesn’t even understand his own movies. When a young aspiring actor at a party asks him if he’s a method actor, he replies “I don’t really follow any specific method.” It’s as if he stumbled upon this fame game by chance and just decided to ride it out. But by now he’s been playing for so long he’s constantly worried about the black SUV in his rearview mirror and he’s so lonely he can’t even fall asleep without a nameless broad at his side.
The story is told in a series of long takes that unfold so slowly you’re almost put a trance. There’s so much said about the overly cutty “MTV-style” filmmaking of today, but there are scenes in Somewhere when an entire song will play without a single cut. The music contributed by Phoenix provides the perfect backdrop for Marco’s daily poolside drift into a meditative coma at the legendary Chateau Marmont.
It often seems like writer/director Sofia Coppola (Lost in Translation) just set her camera on a tripod and said “let’s see what happens.” What happened was some terrific chemistry between the two leads. We really get to know these characters and feel like we’ve spent a lot of quality time with them, even if it is mostly down time.
His daughter Cleo (Elle Fanning) is, in many ways, the adult in the relationship. She cooks him eggs benedict for breakfast, which just goes to show how mature she is. Most kids her age know no breakfast beyond a Pop-Tart, let alone how to poach an egg. A separate morning has Fanning deliver Dorff a perfectly pitched scolding stare at the breakfast table after she realizes her father snuck out of bed for a booty call the night before.
This Johnny Marco role seems like an Oscar-baiting departure, tailor made for a massive star like Brad Pitt. Coppola instead chose an actor perpetually on the brink of stardom, who’s never actually taken that next step. Oddly enough, Dorff, probably best known as the villain from Blade or even Britney Spears’ violent boyfriend from her “Everytime” video, is playing a bigger star than he himself has ever been. But this could be the “breakout role” that actually breaks Dorff out. Finally.