By Amy Nicholson
By LA Weekly critics
By Zachary Pincus-Roth
By Amy Nicholson
By Amy Nicholson
By Amanda Lewis
By Amy Nicholson
By Anthony D'Alessandro
"I was getting kind of tired of movies that just have pop song after pop song as the score — I did that before," Coppola says. "I wanted to see how little we could use music."
Some scenes are so quiet that sounds that otherwise would seem incidental almost boom on the soundtrack, as in a long take of Johnny in his hotel room, in which there's so little going on that the sound of his cigarette burning almost seems to echo.
"I found sitting there smoking a cigarette with nothing [to say] one of the most challenging things," Dorff says. "Because if I'm 'acting' for one second, the movie's done."
Somewhere is a film that asks us to pay non-withering attention to the ennui of the beautiful, rich and famous, made by a woman who is beautiful, rich and second-generation famous. That alone is enough to inspire knee-jerk, negative reactions. When Somewhere won the top prize at the Venice Film Festival in September, where it was in competition against such formidable contenders as Darren Aronofsky's Black Swan and Kelly Reichardt's Meek's Cutoff, some journalists cried foul over the fact that the jury for the prize included Quentin Tarantino, whom Coppola dated briefly after divorcing Jonze and before taking up with Mars. (For her part, Coppola jokes that she would have assumed her past relationship with Tarantino would be a handicap, not a help.) Some Somewhere critics complain that "nothing happens" in the movie; others say she should have gone further with the avant-garde inspirations, studio-subsidiary distributor be damned. Coppola also has been accused of treading familiar ground: the story of a man at a crisis point, who has a relationship with a female 25 years his junior — in a luxury hotel? Again?
It's fair to point to Somewhere's resemblance to Lost in Translation, but the similarities between the films needn't be pejorative. Somewhere seems to systematically revisit certain scenes and elements of Translation, approaching them with added distance, wisdom and grace. A press conference scene that existed to mock a brainless starlet in Translation has been refashioned in Somewhere to show sympathy for the celebrity. Both films deal with a very specific side effect of fame: the loneliness of being wanted by strangers and yet having no one to talk to. Translation leavens that loneliness with wry comedy and by offering its sad actor the hope of a quasi-romance. There's very little comedy in Somewhere, and in the world it describes, romantic relationships don't exist; women offer Johnny only easy sex and angry texts. If Johnny's complicated relationship with his preteen daughter is a temporary comfort, it's also a reminder of his inability to sustain a connection or make a commitment of any kind.
In both films, the big event is that the characters — self-obsessed and wound too tightly — lose themselves in a moment that can't be sustained, but Translation and Somewhere milk ephemera for different emotional results. Lost in Translation's Rorschach-blot conclusion may be ambiguous, but it's undeniably exhilarating. At Somewhere's equally enigmatic end, Johnny makes a Big, Symbolic, Potentially Life-Changing Gesture that could lead to positive change — but for the moment, more than ever, he's rootless and utterly alone. The parallels between the two films point to their key difference: Sofia Coppola's increasingly mature point of view.
Another Monday, another sunny day at the Chateau. The photo shoot for this story is taking place in the same lobby dining area where Coppola and I had lunch. The scene is different from how it's portrayed in Somewhere — booze swapped out for breakfast dishes, groupies for babies and a dog. As one of the many publicists milling about jokes, "It's the G-rated Chateau."
In between shots, Coppola opens her Christmas present from yet another publicist: two baby bibs, monogrammed "COSIMA," for Coppola and Mars' newborn daughter, who is upstairs sleeping.
With no permanent residence in L.A., the family has been living at the hotel while Coppola promotes the film. Despite the hotel's reputation, they're not the odd domestic unit at the bacchanal; a fashion-industry friend of Coppola's, who also has a baby daughter, has been living here with her own family for the past six months. "It's been fun," Coppola says, with genuine enthusiasm, in full mom mode and apparently loving it.
Finished having her photo taken, Elle Fanning comes over to seek sartorial counsel from her director before their next press commitment. Clad in high-waisted, dark flare jeans and a puff-sleeved blouse, the willowy seventh grader now is taller than Coppola. "Are you leaving your jeans on? I brought a skirt I could change in to."
Coppola shrugs. "It's casual. It's L.A." When the actress is out of earshot, the director marvels, "She's grown so much since our shoot."
Change is in the air. In a few days, Coppola and family will head up to Napa for Christmas. After that, she'll start to think about her next project. In an echo of her film's highly symbolic ending, she tells me she's just let go of one major tie to L.A. "I had an old Jaguar, and I recently sold it," she says, wistfully. "I love cars, and I miss that part of L.A., driving around. I had it for, like, 10 years, but it was just sitting in a garage."
Is it a sign that she's decisively put Los Angeles in her rearview mirror, so to speak? If so, she isn't letting go completely. She smiles, almost conspiratorially.
"I sold it to a friend."
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