The Best Films of the Decade: #31. Somewhere (2010)

| December 11, 2019
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In just 20 days, the decade will come to a close and so for movie lovers like me it is an opportunity to look over the decade of movies that are left behind. Over the next few weeks I am going to count down the best films of the past 10 years from #40 to #1. My choices are personal choices swayed by nothing but the love I have for this medium. These are all great movies. These films all achieved something great. All reached for something special. They are the best of the decade . . .

Image result for Somewhere 2010

Back in 2010, I praised Sofia’s Coppola’s admittedly dry but not inconsequential drama to the rafters.  Afterwards I was sort of stunned that mine was a minority opinion.  What was I grabbing onto that other critics seemed to dismiss?  Revisiting the film again recently, I have a feeling that it was the film’s pacing.  The narrative flow of Somewhere is supposed to follow a fading celebrity through the humdrum of his daily routine and for many that made for a rather dull experience.

Obviously, I do not agree.   Somewhere is, in many ways, the spiritual cousin to Lost in Translation being another tale of a celebrity out of his element and dealing with a relationship that he doesn’t know how to manage.  In this case, a washed-up actor named Johnny (Stephen Dorf) whose fame is quickly fleeting, whose wife has had an unexplained breakdown and whose tweener daughter is suddenly left in his care.  Yes, it’s the old bit about the irresponsible adult suddenly forced to be responsible for a kid they don’t want or understand.

What is special about this film is that Coppola captures the textures of real life minus the calcifying brick-a-brack of music and lighting and tones that give us comfort and joy.  In that way, we are experiencing Johnny’s isolation and loneliness.  He’s a nice guy, a good-looking guy, but what is his life really worth?  What is the price of fame?  Coppola doesn’t tell us.  She largely keeps him a blank slate so that we place upon him our own interpretations.

With her first three films, Lost in Translation and Marie Antoinette, Coppola examined the strange journey of celebrity and privilege that traps people in an isolated state, unable to have anything resembling a normal life.  Arguably Somewhere belongs in the same class as those films.  It’s about isolation and celebrity away from the charms of the spotlight and the party lifestyle.  This is a difficult film, a spare film, a challenging film.  One that deals with a difficult man in a way in which the viewer is forced to meet him halfway. I’m okay with that.

About the Author:

Jerry Roberts is a film critic and operator of two websites, Armchair Cinema and Armchair Oscars.
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