It is hard to imagine a story much slighter than Sofia Coppola’s “Somewhere,” a running diary in the life of a Hollywood star — a life rife with malaise, superficial encounters and the occasional, inconvenient reminder that he is something more than the sum of his celebrity.
Johnny Marco (Stephen Dorff) is a dad, just not a very attentive one. Yet when he invites daughter Cleo (Elle Fanning) over for lunch, he cares enough about her feelings to kick one of his many anonymous conquests to the curb — at least for the afternoon. Cleo is the first to sign the cast on his arm.
Johnny lives a life most of us know from the tabloids, having assumed apparently permanent residence in West Hollywood’s Chateau Marmont, where there seems to be a party behind every door.
He goes through the usual movie-star motions, appearing at press junkets to mouth unrevealing sound bites about his latest film. “Who is Johnny Marco?” he is asked, and his response, or lack thereof, is telling.
There is plenty of downtime — too much, we suspect — but Johnny does not fill it with booze or drugs or much of anything really. By night, he hires pretty blond twins to dance for him, but he seems more diverted than aroused.
At all times, except when he is with Cleo, he seems to be looking for something better to do.
Cleo is the key to whatever transformation Johnny undergoes in “Somewhere,” because she can see past his bull and because she represents the most redeeming aspect of his curiously lonely existence. She is permanent, unlike the women, the movies and the publicists. She makes him real.
Does Johnny want to be real? He does. Life is perpetually sunny at the Chateau, but Johnny wants out. He is sick of the artifice. Where will he go? What will he do?
“Somewhere” does not tell us, and perhaps it is not important. His desire to escape may suffice.
Dorff plays Johnny likably, in an understated performance that relies less on dialogue — of which there is little — than nuance. We know him through his expressions, sidelong glances and body language. Johnny occupies the screen throughout, and a lesser actor might have made him seem merely impenetrable.
Starring Stephen Dorff, Elle Fanning, Chris Pontius
Written and directed by Sofia Coppola
Running time 1 hour 37 minutes