Gently rippling across the silver screen and into a vague familiarity within the appreciative collective consciousness is Sofia Coppola's Somewhere, an insistently languid film further exploring the theme of gilded isolation (well established in her former accomplishments Marie Antoinette and Lost in Translation), but with the focus this time settling on emptiness.
The emptiness is at the core of Johnny Marco (a charming, sincere Stephen Dorff) and it's the result of a life of movie-stardom that's eventually stunned him into functional atrophy by pandering to his every whim and want (indeed to the point that he falls asleep while watching a tandem pole-dance for his sole pleasure). Donning the two-tone t-shirts with stretched collars and cuffs, customary of the professional actor (seriously, the uniformity amongst the Hollywood elite is uncanny), Marco's ample time is barely occupied by being on the promotion trail for one film, and starting the tentative production of another; a life many dream of (permanent residence at a grand hotel filled to overflowing with beautiful women and twenty-four hour servitude of the faceless staff), but one that's enjoyed tepidly nonetheless. Causing the rippled waters to foam, though with impressive reserve in Coppola's writing they never break, is the return of Marco's daughter Cleo (a remarkably engaging Elle Fanning, who, thank Goodness, isn't also just a big set of eyes), first as a visitor, then as a roommate for an indefinite period.
The story proceeds in Coppola's token ebb and flow, taking on the appearance of a series of related vignettes (mimicking Marco's jig-sawed existence) rather than knitting a fully formed narrative. The slow dynamic of Marco's realisation of his fragmented self, which lurks idly in between the scenes, is left to the audience to piece together, instead of being laid bare before us. The specificity with which these scenes were chosen and created (you can count them in the trailer) seemingly belies a purposeful depthlessness among the characters and what you can't help feel should be rampant symbolism. In reality, Somewhere's stringent postmodernity is reiterated to a knife-edge; in fact, to the point that two of the six people in the theatre walked out amidst remonstrations of the slow superficiality. Indeed, the film is about as overly manufactured and cliché as the Ferrari Marco drives, and as his 'Made in the USA' tattoo suggests. The shallow star and his prodigal child is in no way a new story. But these are not drawbacks; they're a bitterly familiar perception of the experience of both ourselves and others, and more importantly, they provide a space for genuine, reactionary emotion to break the seed cover and hesitantly germinate.
Somewhere is a wry, but ultimately graceful coupling of the amusing and absurd (Chris Pontius of Jackass notoriety is peppered in a few scenes), and it culminates in a signature discovery of self-expression. It is tirelessly carried by Dorff and Fanning's delicate and discerning acting, with the 13-year-old outstandingly navigating her character through slight bemusement and dedicated attentiveness. Go watch Somewhere, but don't forget to exhale and relax when the Focus orbs colour the screen; it'll help you find the right mood to enjoy it.