With Somewhere, Sofia Coppola took a not very complex story and tried to pretend it was some deep, insightful masterpiece. She did this by dragging out shots to nearly unbearable lengths, and made the bold move of not ever really having anything happening in the movie. She tried to make her own little 2001: A Space Odyssey. The problem was, she just didn’t have as much to say as Kubrick did. With Odyssey, Kubrick would place an image on the screen, leave it their long enough for the audience to think about it, and then he would move on. Coppola tried to do this too, but missed the part where you show something worth thinking about for ten minutes.
Take the opening shot of the movie: A black Ferrari drives laps on a dirt course in the middle of nowhere. Each lap takes a long time, as most of the track is off screen. After about the second lap, the audience understands that this is probably a metaphor for the main character’s life; how he is “going around in circles”, and that despite his obvious financial success, he’s still left unfulfilled and bored in his life. Then Coppola lets the shot go on for about another nine laps.
She uses these excruciatingly long sequences of monotony throughout the film regularly. I realize she did this to make the audience see just how dull and tedious the protagonist’s life is, but she could have done this in about four minutes and then moved on with the story. Instead, we’re left with the feeling that she just needed to pad out the film’s running time.
The fact is the story itself just wasn’t new or interesting enough to warrant such ballsy moves on the part of the filmmaker’s. Stephen Dorff plays a guy who, despite his riches and numerous women, is left unfulfilled in life due to his lack of meaningful relationships. This isn’t exactly a groundbreaking concept. In fact, Crazy Stupid Love, which I just saw last night, deals with this same exact concept with a secondary character, and still manages to be entertaining and funny and dramatic, and doesn’t feel the need to torture the audience into understanding the point.
All this being said, I didn’t hate this movie. I realized all the reasons that I should have hated it, but for some mysterious reason, I just didn’t. It could be Elle Fanning as the protagonist’s daughter, who shines brilliantly and injects the film with a very intentional jolt of energy. It could be the music, which I really dug. But I think the reason I couldn’t hate this movie is that it actually tried to be something. I would much rather see a movie that tried to be great and wound up being mediocre than a movie that tried to be mediocre and succeeded, (Green Lantern, Transformers, Thor, Captain America, which was so mediocre I couldn’t even think of enough things to write about it to warrant writing a full review). This is the first time all summer that I’ve been able write a lot about a movie I’d seen, and for that, I’m grateful. It feels good having a lot to say about a movie, even if most of those things aren’t positive.