Thursday, September 5, 2013

Five Nights With...Elle Fanning: Somewhere

So, last night I had the pleasure of watching 'Somewhere' again, and I must say that I was pleasantly surprised.  I remember being quite letdown with the film back in 2010, and I've pretty much forgotten about it ever since, but getting to sit down with it once again was a nice treat.  It also helped me to appreciate Coppola's latest film even more, because 'The Bling Ring' shows so much growth and maturity of themes when compared with 'Somewhere'.  Coppola has a knack for regurgitating the same theme (lost youth, misunderstanding of fame) with wildly different textures, and I think that is why 'Somewhere' is the one film of hers that I find the hardest time connecting to.

It just feels too familiar.

But I'm getting ahead of myself already!  I should probably start at the beginning.



Being the fan of Sophia Coppola that I am, ‘Somewhere’ was my most anticipated film from last year.  I literally could not wait to see it, so much so that I downloaded it to my computer months before it was released in theaters near me so that I could watch it. 

For me, ‘Somewhere’ doesn’t quite live up to my expectations.

First things first, this is not a bad film at all.  In fact, it is a very good film.  Some of my friends have noted that they feel this is Coppola’s most mature offering, and in many ways I totally agree.  She has a beautiful knack for fleshing out the humanity in her stories with such graceful subtlety.  She masters that here, allowing the fluid movement of the scenes to do most of the talking.  While some would make sweeping statements that this is, ‘by far’, we worst film, I can only half agree.  While she shows definite maturity here, this is my least favorite of her films.  In that same respect though, I can’t say ‘by far’ since the film is a very good film.  I just found it too familiar. Coppola often regurgitates similar themes in her films, but she manages to make them feel fresh and unique to her own style. She doesn't quite manage that here. It drips with style (it is beautiful to look at and it moves with the grace and fluidity that we expect from Coppola) but it feels too rehashed to be anything monumentally moving. It felt like 'Lost in Translation' lite. I really liked it, and the performances are beautifully detailed, but the film itself reaches short of the greatness I was expecting.

The idea of being lost within your own life and trying to find an outlet, anything really to save you from yourself, is a great idea, but Sophia has done that four times over now and it shows on this film that she is running out of ways to make it feel soulfully individualized. 


This just felt somewhat halfhearted.


And yet, I can’t help but admit that had ‘Lost in Translation’ not been released on ’03 I’d probably be lauding this particular film as a masterpiece and placing it at the top of my personal ballot for Best Picture last year.  Like I said, it’s very good, but it is also very familiar.

But, one cannot overlook the glorious Elle Fanning and her marvelous contribution to this film.  In fact, I would hand her a win over ANY of Oscar’s nominated supporting actresses; in a heartbeat.  I’m just going to post straight from a piece I wrote about her performance on the blog back in January.



“In Sophia Coppola’s latest entry, ‘Somewhere’, she cast the ‘other’ Fanning girl, Elle, to play a fictional variation of herself (or I assume as much).  While Coppola is one of my favorite working directors, I must say that the familiar nature of ‘Somewhere’ was a tad underwhelming for me.  That said; the naturally organic presence of Elle Fanning utterly blew me away.  By merely doing nothing at all, Fanning does SO much with this character.  Playing Cleo, the young daughter to Hollywood megastar Johnny Marco, Fanning isn’t discomfited by her father’s world.  She isn’t afraid to call a spade a spade (that stare at the breakfast table was superbly executed) and yet she realizes the nature of the world in which her father dwells and so she allocates herself to it with childlike ease.  The construction of a Coppola film is already wildly organic in tone (it just flows in such a sublimely effortless manner) but Fanning adds so much weight to the film by relaxing right into the pace.  Her character arc may seem oddly anticlimactic (also the signature ways of the director) but there is the sting of her presence that never quite goes away.  You can feel her spirit moving her father to contemplate his own footsteps, and you understand why.  It is less the notion that a child can reconstruct a parent and more the understanding that THIS child is something special to THAT parent.  There is such intimacy presented in this performance (as well as Dorff’s).

Infact, dwelling on Fanning’s performance is making me appreciate the film morethan I initially thought I did.”


In the end, I like this movie and I highly recommend it.  Sophia Coppola is a masterful director and I cannot wait to see what she delivers to us next.  She understands the beauty of the human spirit and she weaves magic out of simplicity, which is something most directors don’t bother to consider.  I want her to branch out on her next project though.  I want to see her step outside her comfort zone and prove to the world that she isn’t one-track minded.  I know she has more in her.  As it is, she ranks very high for me and is probably one of my top five working directors today.  With a little spice she could easily become number one.


I also encourage you to jump over to Surrender to the Void to read both an essay and a review of this film!

So tomorrow caps off our week with Fanning with 'Super 8'.  I'd like to than Josh and TheVoid99 for participating in this month's marathon.  I can't wait to see what you guys pull out for next month (I'll post the theme, films and dates tomorrow).

10 comments:

  1. I've seen this one and both she and Stephen Dorff did a good job with their roles. However I think I need to give this another go, as it wasn't what I initially expected.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Nor I. It was far subtler than I expected and in that sense I was pleasantly surprised, and I will admit that I enjoyed it more this time than the first, but I still stand by my assessment that it is her weakest effort.

      Delete
  2. I never got around to watching Somewhere, I remember reading a lot of reviews saying it was slow. I think I'll give it a try. Especially since I was so pleasantly surprised by The Bling Ring.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh, you really should. It's worth it just to see Fanning, and the beautiful cinematography!

      Delete
  3. Hi Andrew! Great post here on Elle Fanning. ‘Somewhere’ doesn’t quite live up to my expectations either, I find it to be incredibly boring and pretentious. That said, I appreciate Elle's performance in it. She was good in Super 8 as well.

    Btw, it's Five for the Fifth time, hope you'll take part again :D

    – ruth

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Ruth! Yeah, I saw that and am planning on putting something together in a bit :-D

      Hope you check in tomorrow when we discuss Super 8!

      Delete
  4. Thanks for posting my stuff. This is my 2nd favorite film by Sofia Coppola. It's not an easy film to watch depending on expectations but I certainly loved it because it's very minimalist and takes its time to let the story unfold.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for contributing! I really appreciate it. I agree with you about the film being minimalist and I particularly loved the final shot, especially this time around. Ambiguity is something that is forsaken all too often in film today.

      Delete
  5. Great stuff man. I'll try to have something better for you next month.

    I agree that Somewhere feels familiar, but I don't hold that against it. For me, it still stands out as its own little gem. The comparison might not be exact, but these two films remind me of Crimes and Misdemeanors vs. Match Point. While those Allen films are similar, I think they're great on their own.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It is probably because of how much I LOVE Lost in Translation that this film feels too similar.

      Delete