Last night, I was lucky enough to spend a quiet evening with some friends watching Sophia Coppola’s new film Somewhere. The film, which critics are calling a return to her Lost in Translation years, is far less heavy-handed than her recent effort Marie Antionette, but just as visually opulent (in a less obvious way). Although it was at times incredibly slow and I felt myself waiting for something to really happen, it’s definitely possible I’m just a victim of Hollywood’s plot-driven blockbusters. In actuality, it’s rare that so much happens in the span of a few weeks, or even a few days, as most movies we see these days demonstrate. Not every film is The Day After Tomorrow, nor should it be. Somewhere is impressive in that it’s a film where not much happens to only two to three characters. It tells the story of Johnny Marco (Stephen Dorff), an actor who does very little and cares about even less, until he’s essentially forced into spending more …
… time with his daughter Cleo (Elle Fanning). As is usually the case, her presence at this point in his life changes his perceptions ever so slightly enough to make a difference.
Ms. Coppola’s depiction of their relationship is nothing if not lovely and immaculately done. But immediately after the film ended, it was her representation of every other woman that caused one of my friends to spout “What is Sophia Coppola’s deal with women?” I’m giving away very little about the movie by pointing out that there is barely one woman who isn’t easily bedded by Johnny. The women in Ms. Coppola’s Hollywood world flash their breasts, bare any and all other parts of their bodies, and sleep with Johnny without so much as one word. Is this the world that we live in, or only the one that he does, at the famed Chateau Marmont on Sunset Boulevard?
Coppola says, “I wanted to show what happens in between the more public moments [of an actor's life]. When I was writing the script, there were a few stories in the news about a couple of really successful actors and performers having personal crises, and it looked like they were having this fun party lifestyle — and from there, I tried to imagine what [Marco's] life would be like the next morning.”
Many have tried to claim that Coppola’s films with detached men are representative of her own relationship with her father, but she argues otherwise, stating only that she works from what she has seen from her admittedly privileged world, not specifically from her family. She does admit that Johnny was inspired by “these successful movie-star types with a party lifestyle, and, you know, lots of different women.” I’d love to know who these different women are, because they all look exactly the same. It’s in Coppola’s Hollywood that I had a hard time even remembering the name of Johnny’s ex-wife and Cleo’s mother, as so many blondes and the occasional brunette whizzed past the screen. It’s hard to know, unless you’re a part of that community; many an athlete and actor have noted that the attention they get from women once they’re famous is astounding and overwhelming. But I have a hard time comprehending that the only female character with a multi-faceted personality and who was worthy of any extended attention is an 11-year old (virginal) girl. With so much focus on a few main characters, we’re left with little to think about women, other than that they exist in typical virgin/whore categories, with little room for complexity (this is not to say Coppola’s depiction of men is much more flattering, only that the main character is a male, and much more is seen of him). The film left me and my friends puzzled; on one hand, I agree with the the rave reviews it’s been getting. On the other, I’d still really like to know why Coppola’s has painted such a specific picture of women of the world, or at least this world, and what her real issue with them is.