Friday, January 21, 2011

Somewhere

The black Ferrari just zooms around and around a desert track, coming in and out of view of the screen, setting the rhythmic lens of Sofia Coppola's latest flick, Somewhere. Johnny Marco, the Hollywood star, a screen legend in Italy, is the driver, repeating a numbing lap that sometimes is loud and other times is a distant whisper. The opening mesmerizes in its measured repetition, setting up what is a film filled with a slow deliberate beauty in the way Coppola frames the shots. They are simply gorgeous.

It is the visual that carries the film, and when I sit back and try to recall the film, the shots come to mind, not the dialogue or sound. For much of the film carries a silence, such as shots with Johnny passed out in bed, the stark white comforter and sheets holding almost a virginal purity counterpart to his ailing Hollywood star boozing, gulping pills, and smoking cigarettes. When the camera pans back from Johnny and his daughter Cleo (played brilliantly by Elle Fanning) sunbathing, both donning the same Rayban like hipster sunglasses, you move with the camera, having them fade, much like Johnny's star quality might do at some point.

The film chronicles Johnny Marco's shallow star life, from his toppling down the stairs drunk, breaking his arm, to his painkiller high inertia in bed while Barbi and her pole twirling dressup friend can do little to awaken him from his numbed slumber. When Johnny is awake, his eyes drift to many big breasted vapid women, opportunities for sex as a numbing agent.

And what rescues him is Cleo, who ends up having to stay with him for a period of time since her mother has decided to take an extended vacation from parenting. At times, it is Cleo doing the parenting, carefully making stovetop macaroni and cheese, complete with grating her own cheese; at times he is the parent, playing guitar hero, rocking out, father showing daughter how to be cool. Through his journey with her, the life that once defined him no longer fits. It is time for the Ferrari to be abandoned.

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