Monday, September 22, 2014

Top 37 Things I Love About Somewhere (that no one talks about)

Sofia Coppola’s Somewhere is one of my all-time favorite films. It’s subtlety, its minimalism, its restraint, its isolation – few films from the past several years have had such a profound emotional effect on me. Moreover than simply loving the film, I’m indebted to everything Somewhere has taught me as a filmmaker. Below are just a handful of reasons why I enjoy the film so much. As always, do feel free to share your favorite, overlooked moments from the film as well. (And consider listening to this while you read. Its more fun.)


Why here? Why this? Why now? Exactly.

Johnny Marco parks, and as he walks to the front of his car, the sun comes out and literally begins to shine down on him. Whether this was planned (by slowly lowering large screens that were blocking the sun), pure coincidence, or just plain dumb luck, it’s absolutely brilliant.

The title card (lovely in its simplicity) fading in as “Love Like a Sunset (Part I)” amps up. Holy shit, chills.

The way Johnny’s fall is treated as an inconsequential act. As if it’s no big deal at all. Hell, I wouldn’t be surprised if they all kept partying after he fell.

The film’s use of “My Hero” is a great example of how to use a bad song really well in a film.

What it means to watch a Sofia Coppola film: not only do we endure the painfully long and hilariously awkward routine by the stripper twins, but we actually get to see them packing up as well. So Sofia.

Look how succinctly this frame captures isolation. It’s so… sad.

The shot of Johnny walking down the hallway has been instrumental to my filmmaking career. The way it begins out of focus, stays still, and only starts to move when Johnny walks into frame… I don’t know what it is about this 30 second shot, but it literally changed things for me.

Another shot that expertly captures isolation. But it isn’t just the shot itself; listen to the annoying hum of the light in the room, or the helicopter circling outside (which you often hear in LA when you’re still). There’s nothing here. Such an absence of character and life.

“I’m Cindy, you moron.”
“I’m sorry, Cindy.”
“I’m the other one.”
The other one. Jesus, she doesn’t even bother to remind him of her own name.

The angelic lighting, the enthusiastic performance – THIS is how you introduce a character.

It would’ve been so easy for Johnny to spend the entire ice skating scene on his BlackBerry. In fact, I half expected him to. But he doesn’t. He puts it down. He watches. He marvels. He’s transfixed. In this moment, we realize Johnny is a guy we’re supposed to like.

You might think it’d be The Life to walk into your living space and see that there’s a party taking place. Me, I think that’d suck. I mean, once or twice would be cool, but I bet this happens to Johnny all the time.

I could be wrong about this, but I think that gal to the right is Sofia’s niece, Gia Coppola (who wrote and directed Palo Alto). She isn’t credited as an extra, but she was a “costume staff assistant” on Somewhere
So, if it’s her – yay!

Why does Michelle Monaghan never get enough credit for anything she’s in? She’s So. Good.

That block of wood.

“Who is Johnny Marco?” Ha, wouldn’t we all like to know.

Okay, I know people have talked about this scene a lot, but it’s just so damn cool. “I met Bono in 59.”

How eager this masseur is to take off his yellow polo.

“Yeah, uh… it’s not for me. Thanks though, uhhh, just pack it up.”

So far we’ve heard: “Hey, I’m Johnny.” “Hi!” and “You got another cigarette?” used as pick-up lines. Sometimes it’s hard to feel too bad for the guy.

Can we talk about how good Chris Pontius is in this movie? For a guy best known for his contribution to the Jackass franchise, he really churned out a solid performance here. You think he’s going to a creep, but he’s actually just a genuine goofball. “Is your ballet teacher an alcoholic?”

The jump cut of Johnny and Cleo walking through LAX to them walking through the airport in Italy. It looks like they shot those scenes back-to-back, minutes apart.

The shared jet lag, the tired eyes, watching a famous show in a foreign language. A great little nod to Lost in Translation.

This was the scene that made me realize how good of an actor Elle Fanning is. Such mature disdain. Love her.

One of my favorite father/daughter moments in the movie. “Have you ever heard him sing before? Just wait… he’s great.”

One of the Top 10 movie scenes that make me hungry. So good.

The Strokes and ping-pong and pool and smiles and laughs. The playfulness of this montage never fails to make me smile.

Cleo breaking down in the car is a great reminder at how bad this poor girl has it. Sure, her parents can afford seemingly anything, but her mother is gone, and her father is almost always absent. I don’t care what financial class you’re in, that shit’s tough.

The sound mixing of Johnny’s apology to Cleo. I love that it’s drowned out by the helicopter. It’s the only way he can think to apologize – with a distraction present.

The remainder of the film following Cleo’s departure is when Somewhere evolves from a great film to a masterful one. Rarely is isolation and internal hell captured so well on film.

This is one of my favorite scenes from any movie ever made. It should’ve earned Stephen Dorff an Oscar nomination. This is what it means to be sad and tired and alone. This is pain.

We’re back to those glorious moments of isolation. Ah, they just kill me.

How pleased Johnny is with himself when he admits, “I’m gonna be checkin’ out.”

I would kill to use Phoenix’s “Love Like a Sunset (Part I and II)” in a film, but it is simply untouchable. No movie could ever match or top what Sofia Coppola did with the track here. Perfection.

There is no other way Somewhere could end. The music, the beeping reminder that the keys are still in the ignition, Dorff’s profound look, his confident walk, the music. Chills. Tears. Bliss. This is everything.

32 comments:

  1. I have to admit that I never noticed some of these things when I watched it. While I liked Somewhere, I can tell it wasn't as much as you do.

    I most agree on being impressed by Elle Fanning. This film, and her scene in Super 8 where she's practicing being a zombie in their amateur film, showed me she could act and was a lot more than "Dakota Fanning's cute little sister."

    I also agree that Dorff should have gotten more notice for this. I rarely have every heard anyone talk about his performance in this.

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    1. I love Elle in Super 8 as well. She's so fiery and bitchy in the beginning. Very believable.

      I really thought this movie would launch Dorff into A-list status (back into A-list status...?). Was stunned that no one paid attention to it. To me, his performance is as good as it gets.

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  2. Overall I've enjoyed all of Sofia Coppola's movies, some far more than others. When this one started I thought that maybe she had lost me with this one. For about 5 minutes. Then I got into it and appreciated everything put to screen even though it was SO SAD. And most of her movies are sad but this one really got to me. Elle Fanning is so good in it and I agree Chris Pontius was unexpectedly perfect. I actually really enjoy him the most out of the Jackass crew because he seems so darn happy all the time, but he was a pretty inspired pick for the part.

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    1. So glad to hear you were able to get into this one. I understand how it could lose some people, but for me, yeah, it's so sad and moving. Very emotional experience.

      I like Pontius in Jackass too, because he DOES seem to be having so much fun. I was so surprised when he showed up here, but he's fantastic in this film.

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  3. Elina will love this post. I myself didn't really care for Somewhere. I don't know.. like, I sometimes think we all have a connection to people we haven't even met and then there are those people we'll never understand. Sofia Coppola is one of the former for me, I will most likely never understand her way of telling a story.. Now, I admire it, like I do with many directors even though I'm not a fan of their work, but I'm not calling myself a fan. It is what it is and I've accepted the fact that I'll never like my fellow Estonian blogger's favorite movie.. I'm sorry, Elina, if you're reading this, I really am.

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    1. Whenever someone tells me that they can't "get" Sofia's films, I always say that I completely understand where you're coming from. She doesn't make "easy" or accessible films, so for you to be turned off by them is understandable. On the flip side of that, there are people like myself who live and die by her work. So, hey, we like what we like. I dig.

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  4. Oh man, you exactly stated everything about this film and why I love it. I too am indebted to the film for the fact that it taught me more about the art of screenwriting. It showcased that you don't need to write many pages and just put in scenes where there aren't any dialogue and just let it flow. Sofia is a master at that.

    Of course, there's a reason why people talk about that elevator scene with Benicio. It refers to a supposed incident that he did in 2004 w/ someone whose name I won't reveal but... I'm sure you know who it is.

    I think that is Gia Coppola in the picture. The nose gives it away. Their cousin Robert of the band Rooney is in the film as well. I'm eager for what Sofia will do next.

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    1. I love that elevator story (even if it isn't true), and I love that Benicio was such a good sport about it in the film.

      Sofia's scripts are so sparse, and I just love that about them. It's all in her head; she knows how it's going to end up, so why waste time writing all of it down? Takes a huge amount of trust with your cast/crew to believe in you if you write that way. But when you're as good as her...

      You think Sofia will stick with her Little Mermaid remake? That's such an interesting concept.

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    2. If she does stick with it, at least it will be an interesting project. Yet, I think it's a break from her original work and maybe will give her some money in the process to fund her own work. If it succeeds.

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    3. Yep, fully agree on all fronts. If her name is attached, I'm interested, period.

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  5. Sofia is one of the most confident directors out there, and while my favourite will always be Lost in Translation, Somewhere is just as perfect. In the age where people go to see the fast-paced blockbusters (which isn't a bad thing, they're fun to watch), it's refreshing to see Sofia just take it slow and tell a story worth telling in a way that I've never seen before. Bravo.

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    1. SO refreshing. Honestly, filmmakers like Sofia are the ones who give me hope. They take they're time making films, and never have a lot of money to make them. But they're the ones I get excited for. I absolutely love her work, and only wish there were more similar films (and filmmakers) around!

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    1. I'd be interested to hear your thoughts. It's one of the best films about isolation that I've ever seen. So beautiful and sad.

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  7. Here's why I love this series, Withrow: You have the ability sometimes to make me want to go back and rewatch movies I know I don't actually want to rewatch. This is stellar stuff man!

    Oh hey - can I make a request? in honour of GONE GIRL coming up in two weeks, think you might be able to do one of these for THE GAME? Make sure when you do you have a screencap of "that cameo in the lategoing that everyone forgets about...or never noticed in the first place" ;)

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    1. This comment rocks - thanks so much man! So happy this post is encouraging you to revisit Somewhere.

      I just hit you back on Twitter, but I am TOTALLY planning on posting one of these on The Game next Thursday or Friday. I'm choosing The Game because it crushed me when Fincher recently said he shouldn't have made that film. Such a bummer to hear stuff like that. And don't worry, señor Spike will not be overlooked!

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  8. Great post! (as always) I didn't like this film, it wasn't for me, but I absolutely agree with the way Cleo was introduced. That was perfect, she really was the bright spot of this film for me.

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    1. Thanks! I get that you don't dig the flick, but I'm glad you appreciate that aspect of it!

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  9. To be honest, I've never been the biggest fan of this film but you have definitely pointed out some aspects of it that I do enjoy (as well as several that make me want to go back and re-watch it). Elle Fanning is fantastic in this role as you say and I agree 100% that Dorff should have gotten more notices for his performance. In fact, all the performances in this film are top notch now that I think about it. I also dig the dreamy approach to isolation that Sofia goes for, even if that's precisely the thing that turns the movie off for me - if that makes sense.

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    1. Yeah, it definitely makes sense. It isn't a very accessible film, for a number of reasons. Really glad you dig Dorff's work in it though. I was so surprised this didn't launch him to A list status.

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  10. While I do not love this movie, I certainly never got the hate for it - everyone always whines and calls this movie boring. Action flick this ain't, but how could it be when the story is basically a character study. I was not bored watching the film at all and it was beautifully and patiently done, you could see how much thought Sofia put into this.

    I love your picks here, that montage with the pool and ping scene was so charming and Doriff was really amazing in the movie. Also my pleasure pairing this up with Earrings, I didn't even realize then how much you loved Somewhere, now I do :)

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    1. I'll admit, I've always loved this film, but after your post, I realized I loved this film. So thanks for that!

      I like that you can appreciate Somewhere without fully loving it. I agree, an action flick this ain't, but rather, a patient and honest character study.

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  11. I love this post! I think this film really shows off Sofia's directing skills that are just mind-blowing. I love the scene guitar hero with Pontius, The Strokes montage, and the breakdowns. It's a really simple film, but still says a lot.

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    1. Thanks! I agree, a very simple and delicate film that speaks volumes. That guitar hero scene is a lot of fun too. Pontius is a riot.

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  12. I absolutely adore this post. Thanks for reminding me of those little special things about a great film. That's the thing about Coppola. The magic's in the detail, the power in the subtle.

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    1. Thanks so much, Angela! I'm so happy you like this film, one of my all-time favorites.

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  13. I love this post. Though it is technically my least favourite of Sofia Coppola's movies, it's still a perfect film. God, Elle Fanning is so gorgeous. Also haha I've never noticed the block of wood before.

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    1. So glad you like it! That block of wood is so funny and so Hollywood. Love that scene. "It wasn't even that good."

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  14. Brilliant post! Love this one too. It easily deserved a handful of Oscar nods, and it's just behind Lost in Translation for me.

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    1. Thanks man! I'm still bummed that this film never found an audience. I adore it.

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  15. I love this film after I just watched it. I should let it chill out a bit. Maybe I'll enjoy more next time.

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    1. It definitely gets better for me every time.

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