By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Eric Nicholson
"I was getting kind of tired of movies that just have pop song after pop song as the score—I did that before," Coppola says.
Somewhere is a film that asks us to pay non-withering attention to the ennui of the beautiful, rich and famous, made by a woman who is beautiful, rich and second-generation famous. That alone is enough to inspire knee-jerk negative reactions. When Somewhere won the top prize at the Venice Film Festival in September, some journalists cried foul at the fact that the jury for the prize included Quentin Tarantino, whom Coppola dated briefly after divorcing Jonze and before taking up with Mars. (For her part, Sofia jokes that she would have assumed her past relationship with Tarantino would be a handicap, not a help.) Coppola also has been accused of treading familiar ground: the story of a man at a crisis point, who has a relationship with a female 25 years his junior—in a luxury hotel? Again?
It's fair to point to Somewhere's resemblance to Lost in Translation, but the similarities between the films needn't be pejorative. Both films deal with a very specific side effect of fame: the loneliness of being wanted by strangers and yet having no one to talk to. Translation leavens that loneliness with wry comedy and by offering its sad actor the hope of a quasi-romance. There's very little comedy in Somewhere, and in the world it describes, romantic relationships don't exist; women offer Johnny only easy sex and angry texts. If Johnny's complicated relationship with his preteen daughter is a temporary comfort, it's also a reminder of his inability to sustain a connection or make a commitment of any kind.
In both films, the big event is that the characters, self-obsessed and wound too tight, lose themselves in a moment that can't be sustained. Lost in Translation's Rorschach-blot conclusion may be ambiguous, but it's undeniably exhilarating. At Somewhere's equally enigmatic end, Johnny makes a Big, Symbolic, Potentially Life-Changing Gesture—but for the moment, more than ever, he's rootless and utterly alone. The parallels between the two films point to their key difference: Sofia Coppola's increasingly mature point of view.
With no permanent residence in L.A., Coppola, Mars and their kids have been living at the hotel while promoting Somewhere. But change is in the air, and the family was heading up to Napa for Christmas. After that, Coppola will start to think about her next project. In an echo of her film's highly symbolic ending, she tells me she's just let go of one major tie to L.A. "I had an old Jaguar, and I recently sold it," she says, wistfully.
Is it a sign that she's decisively put Los Angeles in her rearview mirror, so to speak? If so, she isn't letting go completely. She smiles, almost conspiratorially.
"I sold it to a friend."