Somewhere: not exactly Lost in Translation 2

Somewhere opens on a partially-obscured, sparse desert racetrack. For three minutes, a nondescript black Ferrari races around and around, zooming in and then quickly out of frame. The car stops and out steps protagonist Johnny Marco, played by Stephen Dorff.

Sofia Coppola’s latest movie traces a smattering of events in Marco’s life as a gigantic movie star. He is living in the infamous celebrity hideout Chateau Marmont in L.A., and as the film opens, he is fighting boredom with drugs, alcohol and casual sex. It’s a battle he’s losing.

Suddenly, Marco is jarred out of his opulent and repetitive lifestyle by a dose of reality: his estranged daughter Cleo (Elle Fanning) is dumped on him for a few days before she goes to camp. Though there is quite obviously a gulf in the relationship, Marco takes solace in Cleo’s company and the two grow closer.

The cinematography is fantastic and the movie is remarkably well shot. Coppola has a great eye and captures the most minute details. She gained access to shoot on location at Chateau Marmont, provided her crew stuck to one floor and only used natural light. It’s extremely rare for a crew to gain access because the complex is a mecca for celebrities, praised for its discretion and privacy.

The music is fantastic, too. Coppola makes great use of Phoenix (her boyfriend Thomas Mars is a member of the band). The French group composed several brief instrumental pieces for the film which is sandwiched between their songs “Love Like a Sunset Part I” and “Love Like a Sunset Part II.” The Strokes, Foo Fighters and Gwen Stefani also contribute.

If there’s one thing people will take umbrage with, it’s Coppola’s story telling. Though it isn’t a Lost In Translation 2, Somewhere follows in the original’s footsteps. The story meanders rather than motors and like the racetrack in the opening shot, Coppola rarely offers the audience the full picture. We are only given the briefest glimpses into Marco’s stardom, into what kind of star he is or what kind of life he’s had. We never see Cleo’s mother and we never learn about their relationship.

Coppola doesn’t reveal very much about Cleo either — viewers will have to glean what they can from her interactions with her father. It’s not at all bad, but it may frustrate the same people that were vexed by Bill Murray’s secret whisper into Scarlett Johansson’s ear in Translation.

Coppola’s movie is a puzzle, and she has provided a few great pieces, but it’s up to the individual to fill in the rest. Regardless, the movie is a poignant portrayal into the realities of stardom from someone who is undoubtedly well-versed in that universe — it’s more real than an episode of Entourage could ever be.

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