Directed by: Sofia Coppola
Written by:Sofia Coppola
Starring: Stephen Dorff, Elle Fanning, Chris Pontius
Released: December 26, 2010
Grade: A-

If you enjoy a good post-film conversation, grab some friends and check out Somewhere.  I make this comment as I’ve read many differing opinions about this latest film from Sofia Coppola (Lost In Translation).  When it screened at the Brisbane International Film Festival last month, my Twitter friends described it as everything from “tiring” to “stunning”.

The film centres on the day-to-day life of a big name movie star living in Hollywood.  Johnny Marco (Dorff) is his name.  The first scene of the film is Johnny doing laps on a deserted race track in his Ferrari. The second scene has Johnny lying on his bed while watching two blonde twins put on a pole dancing display.  This opening is a little drawn out but you get the point.  Johnny Marco can pretty much do whatever he wants.

Is he happy though?  Well, that’s a question up for debate.  There are certainly parts of his life that he enjoys.  Women are forever falling at his feet.  There’s one part where he opens his apartment door and an attractive blonde just so happens to be waiting across the corridor.  One thing leads to another and... well, you get the idea.

What’s more interesting about Johnny is the fact that he comes across as an introvert.  He doesn’t want go to a party with friends and get stuck making small talk.  He doesn’t want to do press junkets with journalists asking him the same questions over and over.  He’d rather spend his day alone – driving his car, laying by the pool or simply taking it easy in bed.

Out of the blue, Johnny’ ex-wife drops off their 11-year-old daughter, Cleo (Fanning), at his doorstep.  She needs a break and has asked that Johnny look after Cleo for a while.  You might think that Cleo would be a hindrance to Johnny’s lifestyle but she’s anything but.  They get along beautifully.  Johnny enjoys the company and the chance to spend time with someone who doesn’t see him as a movie star.  Cleo enjoys having a father figure and also the opportunity to visit some cool places.

I wasn’t satisfied by the ending but I enjoyed the journey.  When I put together my list of the top 10 movies of 2010, I noticed that two films were light in terms of dialogue – A Single Man and I Am Love.  Both let sounds, music, expressions and visuals do the talking as opposed to actual words.  Whilst Somewhere isn’t quite “top 10 material”, it has been made using a similar mould.  It’s a style I appreciate.

Whilst it has a little bit to say about Hollywood and the way it operates, I enjoyed the film more for its depiction of the relationship between father and daughter.  I also admire Sofia Coppola for not overcomplicating the screenplay.  There’s no tension just for the sake of it.  Watching Johnny and Cleo lying in bed eating ice-cream was enough for me. It’s a touching moment.

When I first saw the trailer for the film, I was puzzled by the odd casting choices.  Stephen Dorff rose to fame in 1992 with his role in The Power Of One but his last decade has been dominated by direct-to-video action flicks.  Chris Pontius (who plays Johnny’s best friend) is better known for his crazy stunts, many involving nudity, on Jackass.  As for 12-year-old Elle Fanning, this is her first time in a leading role.  Coppola's gamble has paid dividends.  The performances are all terrific but Fanning deserves to be singled out.  She’s a natural on screen and this should open many doors for her.

Once again, we’ve been spoiled with a plethora of new release films in Australia on Boxing Day.  It’s a bountiful crop this year and hopefully many filmgoers will find time to squeeze Somewhere into their relaxing holiday schedules.