Coppola’s minimalism can be odd for new viewers

By Kayla Sweeney

In fairy tales of old, beautiful princesses were often locked away in castles and relied on princes to come save them. “Somewhere”

Directed by: Sofia Coppola

Starring: Stephen Dorff, Elle Fanning

Grade: B+

In fairy tales of old, beautiful princesses were often locked away in castles and relied on princes to come save them.

Sofia Coppola spins this idea in “Somewhere,” the tale of an attractive actor self-imprisoned in a luxury hotel who relies on his 11-year-old daughter to help him escape. But in this case, dragons don’t block the exits —  beautiful, and usually naked, women do.

In the Chateau Marmont, a luxurious Hollywood hotel, we find complacent actor Johnny Marco (Stephen Dorff). He dresses like a teenager, smokes a lot and has sex with the numerous blond women who stalk the halls of the Marmont, in between promoting his new movie. His easygoing cycle of a lifestyle is broken when his daughter, Cleo (Elle Fanning), arrives to live with him for an indeterminate amount of time.

What follows is 90 blissful minutes of Johnny and Cleo bonding over Guitar Hero, ping-pong and underwater tea parties with minimal dialogue and maximal emotion. Johnny begins to question his life and where it is going.

Coppola achieves the remarkable feat of both allowing the audience to wish to be Johnny and live his easy life, while simultaneously showing his loneliness and boredom with his situation — his ennui. Dorff does an excellent job conveying an astonishing amount of emotion with little speech.

Viewers who are not used to Coppola’s films might be surprised at how much doesn’t happen in “Somewhere,” and how even the previously described plot is paper thin, barely even holding the events of “Somewhere” together.

Coppola’s movies are about minimalism, but “Somewhere” takes it to new extremes. Buried deep in the minimalism is an important message about the nature of Hollywood and the truth about what it really means to be a celebrity: You get everything you want but the cost might leave you in solitude.

Fanning is charming enough to create a breath of fresh air when she is on screen. When Johnny’s quiet antics become boring, Fanning’s character returns to the screen and pulls the audience back in.

Together, they portray a father-daughter relationship that is both realistic and honestly heartwarming. Their relationship is demonstrated through midnight gelato in Italian hotels or an awkward post-one-night-stand breakfast with Johnny’s lover of the day.

Another warning to those who are not familiar with Coppola’s other movies — she tends to favor ambiguous endings, and “Somewhere” is no different. It’s nearly impossible to tell by the end of the movie whether Johnny is actually making a change in his life. The true ending of the film takes place when the viewer decides if that matters at all.

In the TMZ age we live in, dialogues about celebrity can seem trite and fake. Coppola achieves the opposite, creating a gorgeous existential view of the Hollywood bubble.