Somewhere / Sofia Coppola / 2010 / fourstar

Active Ingredients: Patience; Cinematography; Inviting pace
Side Effects: Erratic performances; Occasional over-sentimentality

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How do films allow us to understand their characters? Clumsy films rely on naked exposition; others allow plot to expose characters. Sofia Coppola’s films, on the other hand, use patient observation. The tactic may alienate some viewers, but those willing to submit to her pace and rhythm are often rewarded.

Somewhere, like Lost in Translation, is about the loneliness and ennui of the rich, but its more daringly plotless. We catch glimpses of the life of a listless Hollywood actor (some long, some short), and gradually, through their cumulative effect, come to empathize with his struggle. Like Gus Van Sant (his cinematographer Harris Savides works here as well), Sofia Coppola is interested in the discoveries that come from rigorous observation: in these types of films, even mundane moments can be revelatory. Much of Somewhere works, producing the desired impact from each scene, but with a structure this episodic some moments miss the mark. Either through faults in the (generally solid) performances or in Coppola’s staging, the more dramatic moments feel artificially inflated.

Generally, though, Somewhere is appealing and inviting. Coppola’s refreshing wit counterbalances the film’s sentimentality. With breezy naturalism, Somewhere proves that any moment, no matter how small, can be illuminating.

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