Somewhere is an interesting look at movie star Johnny’s Marco’s (Stephen Dorff) busy schedule. He’s promoting his latest movie while being the target of snide remarks from his costar (Michelle Monaghan), getting a make and make-up for his next role as an older man, going to Milan where he’s revered and where we learn that his CV includes Pacino and Streep films. With the good comes the bad, breaking his arm at the Cheateau Marmont while wasting his money renting a hotel room there, his many exploits, looking like crap – impractical yet fabulous taste in footwear aside – and not even dressing properly at press conferences and photo shoots. In other words, looking at an actor’s precarious career and lifestyle.
It’s interesting to see Cleo (Elle Fanning) behave towards his Johnny. She gets visitation rights with him during weekends, he doesn’t know that she has been ice skating for three years (although that could be mom’s fault), she has to tell him what “Twilight” is, he sneaks girls into his hotel suite in Milan even if she’s sleeping in the suite’s bedroom. Later on, in a teary scene, we discover that Cleo’s mom is going away and the latter hasn’t revealed when she’s coming back. Her parental situation and upbringing is just as precarious as Johnny’s career, thus the film’s title, Somewhere.
Let’s go back to Milan scene, shall we, as it develops to the morning after Johnny’s tryst with the Italian woman. The woman tries to open up to Cleo, asking her questions about boyfriends and telling Cleo stories about her young love with a scooter. Johnny finally joins the two on a breakfast table, Cleo darting looks of anger towards her father. That one moment is the angriest she gets because she doesn’t seem to harbour ill will against him for the rest of the movie. Well, he does hang out with her a lot. The film also makes it seem that despite the lack of time normally spent between the two, they don’t seem the need to reacquaint each other of their new activities. They communicate instead through playing Guitar Hero or playing tea-time at the bottom of the Marmont swimming pool, the two then having an esoteric language to themselves. Her treatment of him is a mature decision for an 11-year-old to make.
The film brags cameos from actors like Louis Garrel and Benicio del Toro, but I’m more interested in the models. Erin Wasson, Angela Lindvall, Maryna Linchuk, Meghan Collison, Jessica Miller (who?) Nicole Trunfio (the brunette woman with the red biniki staying below his Marmont suite). I couldn’t recognize them until looking at iMDb, and it’s sad that I haven’t been connected to the fashion model world.
This is getting…somewhere. The first half of the film especially shows writer/director Sofia Coppola channel the male gaze through Johnny in his (spatial) relationship with these women. There are exceptions to the gaze and gender divide, when Johnny watches a documentary about Gandhi without feeling a slight tinge of empathy towards the great man. Nonetheless, he lights up like a little boy when he watches the twin strippers’ second number (I didn’t know the Foo Fighters and Amerie were stripping music. I also didn’t know that Coppola’s taste in music got more populist/terrible and I do like Amerie). He ignores the three models with black couture gowns, the models then like ghosts in the Marmont hallway. Someone ‘sexy’ pops by now and then while Cleo’s around and we as an audience is anxious that he’ll be seduced away from his daughter’s attention. He watches Cleo’s ice skate routine as an obligation, but marvels at her classic, fragile beauty when she comes out in the gown for the Italian awards event.
Watching him enact the male gaze is interesting since he is an actor, and his job description means people looking at him. He worries when the gaze is shifted back towards him, asking his daughter to watch out for black SUV’s – she tells him that there are lots of those cars in LA, which is weird because as an actor, he’s supposed to know those things. At a party, a younger actor asks him for advice while only half of the girls there give him any attention. He goes on stage in Milan for the awards event but is quickly pushed out to make way for a dance number led by the Italian girlfriend.
Somewhere is like watching someone who doesn’t feel comfortable with the spotlight, which come to think of it, is a recurring theme in Sofia Coppola’s films. Bill Murray’s character in Lost in Translation, Kirsten Dunst’s titular Marie Antoinette and Johnny are similar in this respect, where the gaze goes both ways between protagonist in a distinct civilization and said civilization’s distant and hostile habitants.
Hostile, however, seems to strong of a word to associate with Sofia Coppola’s slow pace and minimalist narration. The characters, even with Cleo’s warm influence, still feel cold and distant. It also feels laughable, because of the film’s content, that Somewhere‘s getting comparisons to other auteurs. The themes aren’t deep enough or are engendered too literally in the film, but I’ll feel obtuse if I ignored these themes since they take a bit to ferment and talk about. 3/5.
I saw this film at the Varsity, where two of the films are sold out for the later screening times and for the 7 PM screening times, all the movies were sold out with the exception of The King’s Speech. And shut up, I liked The King’s Speech.
ph. Warner Home Video
There’s little to say intellectually about Kiss Kiss Bang Bang except that it has a lot of great banter between the characters. And as much as Robert Downey Jr. is great at being twitchy here, I’d appreciate it if he didn’t do it in every film and TV guest appearance after this. I prefer Colin Farrell’s twitchiness. I’m also worried about the self-aware narration and how that would age, because that’s stating to annoy me a bit now.
I really like the shot above. Just the mix of the greens, blues and the yellows, the latter diagonally popping in the lower left hand side of the screen. Here’s the same colour scheme before that.
And way before that. Are they trying to make people think that fall exists in Los Angeles or are yellow streetlights dominant there? I don’t remember yellow street lights.
And landscapes with diagonal divisions after that. Kudos to DP Michael Barrett for adding gloss, style and colour to the film. He also worked on Takers, snob sigh.
Hey, model/actress/mom Angela Lindvall as Flicka, the first girl to reject Harry (Downey Jr.), eventually making him generalize LA girls. She’s in the same generation of models as Gisele Bunchen, and arguably Angela’s prettier.
Also, Michelle Monaghan as Harmony is a great crier, enduring a memorable walk of shame in film history. Until she finds something in her pocket, that is.
I also put this movie n the ‘Nighthawks’ club, because it’s always on after midnight at least twice a year, or more often than that. Another movie in said club is The Third Man, the latter of which I can never finish because it’s always on so late. When I click ‘Info’ on my remote, it always gives the movie two stars, showing the divisive reception of a movie that garnered applause at Cannes. This movie should be regarded as a Christmas movie like Die Hard. I also just found out that Downey Jr. and Monaghan are reuniting in Due Date. Excited!
Last Saturday, TCM was showing “The Searchers,” the king of all westerns that I can’t blog about for my own neurotic reasons. Fortunately I can tie it into a movie that was on Bravo Canada the night/morning after – Gone Baby Gone. It did come out in a year that overflowed with proper Western films. And both have missing children and gun-toting!
So is Gone Baby Gone a western? It’s not a noir because there are hardly if ever any child abductions in that genre. Noir’s a very adult genre, focusing on an underworld that only seeps into the domestic areas in one or two instances. Dorchester’s both an underbelly and a residential neighborhood, on the other than there’s a separation between those two worlds that the precedent in both genres show. And there’s not enough shadow in the movie. Conversely, There has been a school of thought that believes that the 1970’s urban landscape, particularly New York City, was the new frontier (There’s also a documentary about the post-1967 depiction of police in cinema which I can’t find that talks about this too. It was on AMC.). Our hero Patrick Kenzie (Casey Affleck) introduces the film by narrating about what that the people of Dorchester believe in, patriotism and family values, just like the old West. Dorchester in the 2000’s is a multicultural environment that’s a bit like the West. The film also has two bar fight scenes that involve guns, another thing it has in common with the genre. Yet it doesn’t have the newness nor the relatively hospitable feel nor the desire for purgation that the Western genre evokes. “It’s the things that you don’t choose that make you who you are, ” Patrick says, and he continues with “I’ve lived in this block my whole life, most of these people have.” The neighborhood can either only not change or decay, and we can say the same about its inhabitants.
And it’s easy enough to compare the characters of Gone Baby Gone‘s with that of “The Searchers.” Patrick is the Martin Pawley, our dutiful moral compass. Both are hybrid characters – they are despised in one society and is a stranger to another. Both are men infiltrating a seedy environment, believe in an idealized world with order, and can pistol-whip their enemies even though they don’t look it. Patrick’s more level-headed than Martin, but both are equally capable of making tactical mistakes with dangerous strangers. And Patrick’s more hesitant in killing criminals than Martin is.
His girlfriend Angie Gennaro (Michelle Monaghan) is the domestic, moral yet brainwashed Laurie Jorgensen. Both represent the mainstream morality of their time. Both are equally prone to saying ruthlessly horrific things about the other characters and unhesitatingly condemn to those whom they think are beneath them. But obviously, Laurie will never jump into a quarry to try to save another woman’s child.
Remy Bressant (Ed Harris) is Ethan Edwards, both of whom are psychopaths who have suspicious origins and histories and are constantly abusing their powers under a badge. Both also have skewered worldviews – children might forgive, Mr. Bressant, but they don’t forget. Both also know their enemies like experts. Amanda MacCready is Debbie Edwards, both of whom fit better with those who have abducted them, who fit better in an idealized world that the protagonists are willing to destroy. Their return to their homes are open-ended, at least more so with Amanda’s. And Jack Doyle (Morgan Freeman)? Spoiler, but he’s a dop-pel-gang-er!
Helene MacCready (Amy Ryan, nominated for an Academy Award for the role) is a different animal, or at least someone who belongs to the Noir tradition. The scene where she recalls her daughter’s supposed last words has revolting implications. She’s irredeemable. The most horrifying thing about her character is that she’s only capable of promising change in times of crisis. When Patrick restores order for her benefit, she can’t even fake joy for this reunion, not even for the cameras. She leaves her daughter like she does every day, returns to her old, drug addled ways.
Also, both “The Searchers” and Gone Baby Gone tend towards deluded ethics based on wobbly rhetoric. The denouement of Gone Baby Gone, when Patrick finally confronts Amanda’s real kidnapper, he prattles on with a speech about that what’s better for the child is not right for the child. Both Patrick and the kidnapper try to speak on the child’s behalf, a dangerous thing to do. Patrick even speaks like this in front of Angie. In most of the film, I felt that its grit outweighs it sentimentality, but this scene makes both influences present, for better or worse. Both the kidnapper’s words and delivery seem more sane that Patrick’s idealism, or maybe Affleck (director or star) might be misguided during this particular stage of the character.
Lars just told me that Gone Baby Gone is the last of a series of four books in a series by pulp writer Dennis Lehane. Explains the speeches. And don’t mistake me, I like the movie. I would have loved it would those few scenes.