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Film / Somewhere

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Somewhere is a 2010 drama and writer and director Sofia Coppola's fourth feature film. It stars Elle Fanning and Stephen Dorff, as well as Ellie Kemper, Chris Pontius, and Michelle Monaghan in bit roles. The film examines themes of success and isolation similar to Coppola's previous works, particularly Lost in Translation. Once again, the protagonist is a celebrity going through an existential crisis.

Johnny Marco is an actor who has recently divorced and lives an empty life consisting of alcohol, women, and his Ferrari. When his pre-teen daughter Cleo comes to spend a week with Johnny before she goes off to summer camp, Johnny is forced to re-examine his life.

This film provides examples of:

  • Actor Allusion: In Milan, Johnny is asked by an Italian film distributor to speak about what it was like working with Al Pacino. Coppola played Pacino's daughter in The Godfather Part III.
  • Ambiguously Absent Parent: Johnny has not been a huge presence in Cleo’s life, and the film follows his attempt to make up for lost time. Layla, Cleo’s mom and Johnny’s ex-wife, is only seen once, and afterwards is heard only through the phone. She leaves Cleo with Johnny for a week because she is having a personal crisis, which is never elaborated on.
  • Blatant Lies: When Johnny's ex-wife asks how he injured his arm, he says he got it doing stunt work in his film. The injury actually happened when he drunkenly fell down some stairs.
  • Bookends: Begins and ends with Johnny driving in his car and getting out.
  • Calling the Old Man Out: When Cleo starts crying on the road trip, Johnny asks her what's wrong. Cleo says she's afraid her mom won't show up to get her at the end of summer camp, and tells Johnny, "You're always gone."
  • The Cameo: Benicio del Toro, several fashion models, and the band Rooney, whose lead singer is the director's cousin.
  • Character Development: In the beginning, Johnny is driving his Ferrari around in circles and is living in the Chateau Marmont, illustrating his rootlessness and longtime immersion in the Hollywood scene. By the film’s end, he has moved out of the hotel, literally walks away from his Ferrari, and appears to have a new outlook on life.
  • Culture Clash: When Johnny accepts a Telegatto at the Italian award show, dancers in skimpy outfits suddenly join him onstage and perform a song. One of them grinds on Johnny, and he just stands there awkwardly smiling, not knowing what to do.
  • Dads Can't Cook: Cleo is shown to be an adept cook for her age and makes meals while staying with Johnny. After Cleo leaves, Johnny refrains from ordering room service and attempts to cook spaghetti. The colander he uses is too small and he spills some pasta in the sink.
  • Desperately Looking for a Purpose in Life: Johnny admits this in tears over the phone.
  • Emotional Torque: At the end after a day of fun in Las Vegas, Johnny must put Cleo in a taxi that will take her to summer camp while a helicopter waits to take him back to the Chateau Marmont. After Cleo gets in the taxi, Johnny shouts to her, "I'm sorry I haven't been around." Cleo can't hear what he's saying because of the helicopter's noise. Despite not knowing what her father said, Cleo smiles and waves back at her father as the taxi leaves.
  • Good-Times Montage: Johnny and Cleo's day out by the pool, having an underwater tea party, sunbathing, and playing ping pong.
  • Heterosexual Life-Partners: Johnny’s childhood friend Sammy.
  • Ignore the Fanservice: In a subtler example than most, Johnny tries to feign interest in the strippers he hires, but he really doesn't seem to care that they're there.
  • Improv: Much of the dialogue was improvised by the actors. This helped to elicit reactions of genuine surprise from Elle Fanning.
  • Leave the Camera Running: There are many scenes of this style throughout, but a prominent one is the scene of Johnny being fitted for a plaster mold of his head. The camera zooms in to Johnny’s face covered in white goo and for a full minute, there is no movement and the only audible sound is Johnny's breathing as he waits for the plaster to set. The scene evokes the humdrum routines of Johnny’s life and how numb he has become to everything.
  • The Makeover: Makeup artists transform Johnny into an 80-year-old man.
  • Manchild: Played for Drama. Johnny is a grown man in his forties who gets drunk, pops pills, parties and orders strippers day in and day out. He does seem to be maturing out of this by the movie's end, though: he makes pasta rather than ordering room service like he usually does, moves out of the Chateau Marmont, and leaves his flashy Ferrari by the side of the highway.
  • Manly Tears: Cleo has left for summer camp, and Johnny is back to being alone in his suite. On the phone with his ex-wife, Johnny breaks down and cries about being nothing.
  • Parents as People: There's no doubt that Johnny loves Cleo but the pressures of his career, his immaturity and his depression hamper his efforts much of the time.
  • Permastubble: Johnny's default look from day to day. As his depression becomes clearer, it also serves as a subtle Beard of Sorrow.
  • Riddle for the Ages: Over the course of the film, Johnny receives angry text messages from an unidentified person. It is likely an ex-lover, but it is never revealed. The fact that Johnny does not delete these messages or block the number hints at his own self-loathing.
  • Shout-Out:
    • Cleo plays Guitar Hero with her dad and plays tennis on Nintendo Wii with Sammy.
    • Johnny and Cleo stay up late watching an episode of Friends dubbed in Italian during their stay in Milan.
    • Cleo tells her father what the Twilight books are about.
    Johnny: What's that book about again?
    Cleo: It's about this girl that's in love with this guy. But he's a vampire, and his whole family's vampires. So she can't really be with him.
    Johnny: Why doesn't she become one too?
    Cleo: Because she can't. He doesn't want to turn her into a vampire. And if she gets too close to him, he won't be able to help himself.
    Johnny: Oh, man.
  • Show, Don't Tell: Like Coppola’s previous films, Somewhere has an atmospheric and dreamlike quality, and is not very plot-driven or heavy on dialogue.
  • Silence Is Golden: There is no dialogue until 15 minutes into the film, giving viewers a front seat to the ennui of Johnny’s daily life and habits.
  • What Is This Feeling?: Johnny accompanies Cleo to her ice skating practice. While sitting at the rink, Johnny is initially distracted with his phone, but later is amazed at his daughter and has a look on his face of realization that he's missed out on time with her.
  • Wise Beyond Their Years: While staying with Johnny at the Chateau, the eleven-year-old Cleo orders ingredients from room service. She cooks meals for Johnny and Sammy, including macaroni and cheese and an Eggs Benedict breakfast (complete with expertly arranged garnish).
  • You Didn't See That: Johnny walks out of the suite next door, having just hooked up with the woman who lives there. He is greeted by the sight of an unannounced Cleo sitting outside his door. Because Johnny is only wearing a towel wrapped around his waist, Cleo thinks he went to use his neighbor’s shower.
    Cleo: Why are you taking a bath next door? Is yours broken?
    Johnny: ...yeah.