A rich and famous movie star on a promotional tour is stuck in a bland hotel room for a prolonged period, time he passes eating bad food, having unfulfilling sex, staring out the window and wandering around the neighbourhood. The star, jaded with celebrity, eventually meets a young woman with daddy issues and the pair form a tight bond while exploring the city around them. But this isn’t Sofia Coppola’s Lost in Translation its Sofia Coppola’s Somewhere, with Los Angeles replacing Tokyo, Stephen Dorff standing in for Bill Murray and Ellie Fanning substituting for Scarlett Johansson.
The story opens with Johnny Marco (Dorff) checking into the Chateau Marmont hotel on Sunset Boulevard on his own. Marco has a new movie to publicise but he spends most of his time attending parties with his best friend (Jackass alumnus Chris Pontius), drinking and chasing women. Marco is restless and troubled. A fall downstairs resulted in a broken arm and a heavy cast, his new Ferrari isn’t running smoothly and someone is sending him anonymous, aggressive text messages. When his ex-wife turns up to tell him she’s leaving town for a while, he takes in his little-seen eleven year old daughter Cleo (Ellie Fanning), whose busy pre-teen schedule of ice-skating lessons and video-game sessions offers Marco the chance to freshen his soul-deadening routine.
And that’s about it for plot in Somewhere, a film about boredom that is, for the most part, boring. Coppola never finds the emotional pulse of the story, which flat-lines its way through a series of loosely connected incidents in a yawning manner before dwindling away into pretension. At times Coppola’s studied distraction is focused into moments of melancholy observation. Marco attends a press conference where he is asked a series of inane questions by the sun-addled foreign press corps, who can’t think of anything more insightful to say about his dumb action flick. Later, he sits for an hour, immobile in a chair, while special effects technicians make a mould of his head and make him up as an old man. He stares into the mirror for a long time, horror-struck not by what he will become but by who he already is.
Somewhere might be intended as a satire on the vacuous nature of modern celebrity but all traces of acid comedy have been neutralised by Coppola’s chalky treatment; endless, static scenes of vacant luxury that take us on a tour of indistinguishable hotel rooms, glassy swimming pools, chattering casinos and leather-bound car interiors, where father and daughter have stilted conversations about nothing in particular. In another kind of movie, wise-beyond-her-years Chloe would disrupt Marco’s mild debauchery, forcing him to face up to his newfound status as a responsible father. But that doesn’t happen here. Chloe just nestles under her father’s armpit as he goes around in circles, bringing light and joy and asking for nothing in return. Its undeniably cute stuff and Fanning gives a charming performance but without any hint of crisis or drama the story drifts and dwindles aimlessly, fuzzy and self-absorbed. The closing scenes are bewilderingly opaque, reinforcing the sensation that Somewhere is going nowhere.