Moviestar Johnny Marco (Stephen Dorff) is living in the Chateau Marmont hotel in Los Angeles. Having recently completed shooting a movie and convalescing after a minor injury he doesn’t have much to do with his time. Things change when he is forced to look after his eleven year old daughter Cleo (Elle Fanning).
Sofia Coppola’s Lost in Translation (2003) received a bit of a backlash after its initial success, I have always defended it and placed it number six in my top ten movies of the decade. Somewhere however lacks the quality and the grandeur of Lost in Translation. I don’t agree with those hung-up on Coppola’s obsession with depressed rich people in hotel rooms, she grew up as the daughter of an Oscar winning director, actors in their private lives is her world and probably the only one she knew for a lot of her life.
Johnny seems to be drifting aimlessly almost sleepwalking. He only shows any sign of happiness when with his daughter. Is it because Johnny finds meaning in his relationship with Cleo, or is she just a more effective distraction than watching pole dancers, sleeping with random women and driving his Ferrari. This like all the other themes in the movie is hinted at but never truly explored. Despite her leading man living in a dreamlike state the movie lacks the wonderful dreamy, hazy quality that was on display in Coppola’s other movies: The Virgin Suicides, Lost in Translation and to some extent Marie Antoinette. This is a shame, if she had been able to recapture it, it could have given the movie something extra. What she does capture perfectly is the aimless melancholy of Johnny’s existence. The same technique is effectively used multiple times where the camera stays still and the action comes and goes in and out of the frame, this is most evident in the opening scene as Johnny’s Ferrari goes aimlessly around a track, the metaphors are far from subtle here!
As mentioned above Johnny is the happiest when with Cleo, the movie is also at its best when Dorff and Fanning are together, at other times it can fall a little flat. This is probably because the characters relationships are more interesting than the characters themselves. There are lots of things the movie could be saying but it drifts from one idea to the next without developing them. The only clear message here is moviestars are just ordinary people (except with more money). One thing that can’t be faulted is the acting, Stephen Dorff perfectly captures his character and makes him totally believable, probably even more so than Bill Murray’s Bob Harris in Lost in Translation. Elle Fanning looks as accomplished as her older sister did at a similar age.
The one question I keep asking myself is would I like the movie more if I had never seen Lost in Translation, the answer would probably be yes. That said it doesn’t make the movie better, don’t get me wrong, it is a good movie, I was just expecting so much more.
Four Stars out of Five