On the evidence provided in “Somewhere,” the room to book at the Chateau Marmont is 59, which comes with blond pole-dancing twins. Then again, maybe you have to be a rich, good-looking movie star to merit such treatment, and the focus on undeserved privilege is one of the few points of real interest in Sofia Coppola’s first feature since “Marie Antoinette.” This junior league Antonioniesque study of dislocation and aimlessness is attractive but parched in the manner of its dominant Los Angeles setting, and it’s a toss-up as to whether the film is about vacuity or is simply vacuous itself.
Never giving but always willing to receive, Johnny Marco (Stephen Dorff) is a scruffy, minimally articulate actor with a sleek black Ferrari and very messy personal habits. From the way hot babes throw themselves at him and people in general kowtow to him, you’d think he was Johnny Depp, but from what little we see, his career is closer to that of Dorff himself, who here gets a rare lead role under a name director but doesn’t infuse it with much charisma or sense of occasion.
Johnny generally wakes up hung over, gets a call from an assistant telling him what’s on for the day and gets laid without lifting a finger. In no way is he an engaging guy who merits attention or respect, although his rarified lifestyle as seen through the hazy gaze of Coppola’s and cinematographer Harris Savides’s camera provides a measure of bemused distraction.
The one aspect of Johnny’s life that should keep him honest is his 11-year-old daughter Clio (Elle Fannning), whose mom increasingly dumps her with her dissolute ex. An ice skater, a cook and in all ways more together than her dad, Clio is nonetheless still a kid who could use a father able to actually talk to her rather than tote her from hotel to hotel, no matter that one of them is the most luxurious one in Milan, where Johnny gets feted on TV for his allegedly sparkling career.
The analytically-minded or perhaps just the gossips may speculate on the extent to which the neglected daughter angle reflects negatively on the writer-director’s own childhood as the daughter of a globe-trotting celebrity filmmaker. Autobiographical or not, the film might have been much more interesting had it taken the child’s point of view on rampant adult immaturity rather than adopting the more familiar and less revealing cool hipster stance.
How unmerited Johnny’s success and sense of entitlement may be is emphasized by his admissions that he never really studied acting and scarcely works out physically. The moment that should be haunting but tellingly is not shows Johnny being made up to look like an old man, a transformation that should give pause to a poseur who’s gotten by in life on his alleged allure. The question for Johnny is implicitly the same as the one posed by The Eagles’s famous song–he can check out of the Chateau anytime he wants, but can he ever leave? In this fuzzy, emotionally stunted film, it’s very hard to tell.