Movies: Somewhere ***
(16, general release)
After the disappointment of Marie Antoinette, Sofia Coppola's Somewhere marks a tentative return to form, but bears more than a passing resemblance to her 2003 hit, Lost in Translation. In Somewhere, 90s star Stephen Dorff plays Johnny Marco, a Hollywood actor who seems lost in a world of meaningless hedonism.
Like Lost in Translation, Somewhere takes place almost entirely in hotels, where soft lighting and soothingly carpeted foyers are the fitting habitat of bewildered and alienated characters. Johnny Marco lives semi-permanently in Hollywood's famous Chateau Marmont hotel, and has become addicted to casual sexual encounters that don't seem to make him very happy. Neither does working, and Coppola's film includes a withering depiction of a film marketing day, or 'junket'.
Johnny spends most of his time drinking, humping and staring moodily off into the distance, but he's forced to act like a grown-up when his 11-year-old daughter Cleo (Elle Fanning) comes to stay.
Cleo's mother has announced that she "needs some time", and while the louche environment of the Chateau Marmont is hardly ideal for impressionable early teens, Johnny does his best to smarten up his act and make Cleo feel at home.
When he goes to Italy to accept an award, he takes Cleo with him. But the more he tries to curtail his lifestyle to protect his daughter, the more he begins to question what he's doing with his life anyway.
What Sofia Coppola does well, even brilliantly, is establish and maintain atmosphere. Like her father, she leans towards a slower, more European and auteurish pace, and uses long, often static shots and carefully chosen music to draw you into her characters' worlds. Though it would be stretching things to say one ever feels a great deal of sympathy for him, Stephen Dorff's Marco is an affecting study in affluent despair.
Elle Fanning is wonderfully fragile as the anxious Cleo, and may turn out to be an even better actress than her big sister Dakota. Somewhere is often lovely to look at, and the tentative bond that forms between father and daughter is genuinely touching at times. But overall, and as per with Ms Coppola, the film lacks real substance, and a clumsily melodramatic ending undermines the seriousness of the endeavour.