Massachusetts Daily Collegian

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A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

‘Somewhere’ typical of Coppola’s work

Courtesy Facebook

Sofia Coppola confuses you. The 39-year-old director’s films are gorgeous, yet boring. You can wander around on Tumblr looking at her images until midmorning, because they’re full of these ethereally beautiful adolescents who seem so tenacious and full of potential. However, with the exception of her weakest work, “The Virgin Suicides,” her films are lackadaisical and leave audiences watching loose ends that never seem to come together or bring anything about them. Within Coppola’s adolescents’ worlds people observe girls of privilege handle issues without any real response other than to submerge their emotions with their own blank, wet stares.

Coppola’s latest film, “Somewhere,” is both no different and a complete turnaround from her usual products. This time, she focuses her film on a bad-boy protagonist named Johnny Marco, played by Stephen Dorff, as if he’s playing Stephen Dorff. He’s living at the Chateau Marmont in Hollywood between action movies he hates, but doesn’t complain about. His daughter Cleo, played by Dakota Fanning’s little sister Elle, comes for a visit. She’s a younger and more innocent version of Marie Antoinette from Coppola’s film by the same name and Scarlett Johansson’s character Charlotte in the director’s “Lost in Translation,” just as Johnny is basically a watered-down Bob Harris.

They don’t do much. They love each other. They relax by the pool, and they play Guitar Hero. The topic of Cleo’s mom is brought up and chucked out. They go to Italy. They order room service. They ride around Los Angeles in a limo. Cleo ice skates to Gwen Stefani as Johnny texts. Nothing happens, and yet, everything happens.

First of all, the primary word that can be used to describe this movie is voyeuristic. We see the part of fame we never really think about: Johnny is really just another guy who got lucky. He shouldn’t be worth caring about. He’s boring. The great cinematographer Harris Savides focuses for minutes at a time on static and simple compositions filled with vapid characters, failing to comment on the non-action.

However, Johnny doesn’t have to do anything special, and Fanning and Dorff don’t really have to act. Instead of wrapping her film in the visual splendor of Tokyo or Versailles, Coppola makes a film in which embellishment is a dirty word. She simply looks at these characters doing their thing in their world and viewers look at what she sees for long enough to read the underlying pathos so clearly it can take your breath away. “Somewhere” is a film about looking and, without the constraints of a narrative, it forces us to look really, really closely.

After a while, viewers don’t wait for anything to happen. They’re just happy to be given a private peek into a private world. Johnny and Cleo are just like us. They do what we do. We relate to the pretty blonde girl because she hasn’t come to grips with the reality of her situation yet, and if she does, she tries to ignore it.

This doesn’t exactly set “Somewhere” apart from the rest of Sofia Coppola’s films. But at the same time, it feels like a massive step forward. It’s as if Sofia is looking back at the girls in her last three films, which hid everything and tried to keep calm. This is why her films are so hard to read most of the time, but with “Somewhere,” we’re finally allowed in.

Austin Dale can be reached at [email protected].

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