Action-movie star Johnny Marco (Stephen Dorff), first seen doing laps in his black Ferrari, has no destination in Somewhere. Sofia Coppola's fourth feature is, at times, similarly aimless and empty. But those who groan that the writer-director has made another indulgent film about the obscenely privileged have overlooked Coppola's redoubtable gifts at capturing milieu, languor and exacting details.
West Hollywood's Chateau Marmont, where Johnny lives, continues the role played by Tokyo's Park Hyatt in Lost in Translation and Versailles in Marie Antoinette: a pleasure palace where no request is too outlandish. For all the twin pole dancers Johnny can order up to his room, Coppola also shows the flip side of erotic abandon and concierge service in her portrait of the Chateau, focusing on the “braindeadness, aphonia, sadness, [and] ineffability” of boutique living, in the words of Wayne Koestenbaum in Hotel Theory.
Aphonia, or loss of voice: Not much is said in Somewhere, a loose-jointed chronicle of Johnny's copious downtime as he nurses the wrist he broke while drunkenly falling down the Chateau's stairs. Of his scant professional obligations, one involves doing a few hours of publicity for his latest mediocrity, Berlin Agenda — a set piece that hilariously sends up the particular stupidity of the press junket, from the aggressive obsequiousness of publicists (“That was awesome!”) to the staggering inanity of film journalists (“How do you think this role represents Italian-Americans?”).
Dorff, like Johnny, is seedily handsome and plays his role with an impressive disregard for vanity: After posing for photos next to his Berlin Agenda co-star, Michelle Monaghan (in a tart cameo), Johnny steps off a 3-inch platform. But Coppola's bid for audience empathy for Johnny — played by an actor whose career has oscillated between B and D list over the past 20 years — proves to be Somewhere's most insurmountable obstacle. Johnny's final-act epiphany grates; it's an unearned catharsis.
Somewhere does find emotional ballast in Elle Fanning, playing Cleo, Johnny's daughter, who, though still a kid and eager for parental guidance, is also on the cusp of adulthood. Where Johnny's tears will make you roll your eyes, Cleo's will break your heart. (ArcLight Hollywood)