Monday, May 9, 2011

No More Drama

Elle Fanning and Steven Dorff in Sofia Coppola's Somewhere
Reality TV shows like The Real Housewives of (Fill in the Blank), Mob Wives, and Bad Girls Club, etc. are really inexpensively produced soap operas without actors and writers:  the national neighborhood trash getting together and performing their version of Greek tragedies after downing a box of wine.  There's nothing outside of the scope of these made-up, people-pleasing pseudo-dramas, and each character/real-person knows he/she needs to make enemies and not friends in order to be central to the episode.  The pleasure of watching these programs is in the hyperbole and crash; they are drag shows without drag-queens and have a bad-art glitter and sheen Andy Warhol craved. 

Sofia Coppola's Somewhere is an antidote to reality TV, a slim, sweet, posh curio of a movie about a dazed and confused movie star who lives at the Chateau Marmont.  Steven Dorff is the actor, and he glides through Coppola's beautiful atmosphere like a lost dolphin.  He can hold the camera's attention without desiring to be filmed:  that seems to be the essence of anti-reality.  Elle Fanning, as well, effortlessly embodies his daughter, an eleven-year-old girl on the verge of both tears and laughter as she makes Eggs Benedict for her movie-star dad and then sits at the breakfast table on her laptop typing in the stuff she'll need to take to summer camp.  Ease and gravity merge together in Coppola's universe.  She has turned out to be a great movie-maker, lingering on scenes that most directors don't even consider filming, and through that process of paying attention delivers intimacy instead of phony drama, beautiful moments instead of personality clashes.

There are moments, in fact, in Somewhere that have the kindness and sweep of dreams you want to go to sleep to re-enter, as if you are channeling lives you'd never have access to.  The pleasure comes from the smallest details, the softest voices.  Coppola is a Beverly Hills Vermeer, stylishly creating vignettes that seem frozen and yet incredibly alive at the same time.  Somewhere is  a lovely experience, and a relief from reality overload.