If it's crap ... We'll tell you
Do you remember that comical but honest scene from Bong Joon-ho's The Host, where the family spends the night in the snack shack after searching tirelessly for the little girl? How about the scene near the end of Hung's second season, where Ray and Jessica jump in the lake together after all the drama that happened with Jessica's second husband?
Somewhere is full of those types of moments, moments that are normally reserved for taking a break from or paying off the drama from previous scenes. In fact, up until the final fifteen minutes, the film is entirely those moments woven around a loose narrative about a celebrity father getting an unexpected visit from his daughter.
It surprised me how well this structure, which pays off these moments with the drama instead of the other way around, worked for the film. Stephen Doriff's Johnny Marco is a brilliantly written and performed character whom, despite living a life of fame and luxury, makes use of his time wasting away in hotels. We're introduced to him as he lays in bed, watching a pair of strippers pole dance in his room. With his own interest waning, he seems to switch his focus toward pleasing them with claps and compliments, but he can't commit to it enough to remember the strippers' names when they finish performing.
While the film wastes no film with exposition or flashbacks, one can imagine this is how Marco's relationship with his daughter, Cleo (Elle Fanning), played out as well. When she arrives, Marco barely inserts her into his plans, often relying on his friend (Chris Pontius) to the heavy lifting entertaining her. But, slowly and surely, Cleo becomes the center of his attention as he pulls in favors with the hotel management to spoil her. Unlike with the strippers, Marco actually finds pleasure in spending time with Cleo and making her happy. He realizes too late, though, that this is the life he could have had if he'd stayed with his ex-wife.
Admittedly, none of these thematic points converged in my head during my first viewing. I spent too much time focusing on director Sofia Coppola, as she is the reason I watched this in the first place. Throughout, I kept looking for identifiers in the background that clued me into why Coppola chose to hold the shots so long.* Only after the convergence did I understand that I wasn't supposed to find anything because Marco lives a hollow, detached existence. This may seem familiar Bill Murray's character from Lost in Translation, whom also only finds meaning through a younger female presence, and it is to an extent. The critical difference here is that this revelation was within Marco's grasp all his life, while in Lost in Translation, it feels like a chance occurrence. Marco flirted with the destiny he could've always had, but Murray's Bob Harris flirted with the destiny he couldn't have had anywhere else but Tokyo.
I haven't yet decided which of the characters is more tragic or if either of them is tragic at all. What makes both films so timeless is that they can be re-analyzed as the viewer grows older. To me, at age eighteen, I look at Marco and think He still has time to repair his relationship with Cleo. But I've never been a parent, so perhaps Cleo's, who's eleven in the film, childish innocence will be gone by time Marko has a chance to do so. On the other end, I see Harris as the most tragic now because he has to go on living the life he felt the need to escape from before. But, when I get older, who knows if I'll come to the realization that it's spontaneous circumstances like the ones he had in Tokyo that make life more optimistic. I've got plenty of time to figure that out, I guess.
* There was actually a scene where Marco is sitting in the make-up chair (he's an actor by trade) and the artist says, "This won't take more than forty minutes. Afterward, that's how long it seemed like she held the shot.
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