My friend Keith and I were both wifeless last weekend, so we decided to go to the cinema at Belas Shopping in Luanda Sul. Their website is not always helpful, and always in Portuguese, so you can only get an approximate idea of what fillums are showing (I posted on Facebook the other day that I would henceforth say ‘fillum’ instead of ‘film’. I’ve only done it once (just now) and I’m already fed up with it).
Being wild and impulsive types we thought we’d just turn up at lunchtime, grab a bite to eat and then choose what to see based on the posters and start times. Lunch over (not worth writing about, food court), we strolled into the foyer to peruse the posters. There were no ‘Big’ films on—by ‘Big’ I mean films that I’ve heard about, seen trailers of, and particularly want to see. The usual male-oriented fare such as Unknown, Fast Five, Limitless, Hangover II, were on offer but didn’t blow our skirts up, so in the end we plumped for Sofia Copolla’s Somewhere: a film neither of us had heard of. We knew about her Oscar for Lost In Translation, but I haven’t seen that either and I don’t know whether Keith has.
Somewhere was interesting.
The film is about the private life of a young and good-looking movie star in Hollywood and attempts to show how dull, repetitive and unfulfilling his life is off-set. It’s a good subject for examination but any such treatment is bound to result in a film in which very little happens. There are no car chases (although he does voice concerns about being followed), no explosions, no guns, no fights. So, the question is: is it worth watching?
Before I tell you what I thought, watch Dr. Mark Kermode’s review. Somewhere prompted one of his famous rants:
Kermode and Mayo, for those who don’t know them, host a weekly film review show on BBC Radio 5 Live, and they video the studio at the same time. Mark is usually a bit over the top; talking about films on the radio I guess it behooves the presenter to inject some theatrical energy into the reviews. That’s Mark’s style and usually I find it very funny. This one is still funny I guess, but I disagree somewhat with his comments on the film.
I quite liked Somewhere. After a disconcerting start during which Keith and I exchanged worried looks, we realised what the film was trying to do and accepted the long periods of nothing-much-happening as a frank observation of the emptiness of fame when the curtain falls. The protagonist, Johnny Marco, is only seen off-set: driving around, vegging out in his hotel room, and so on. I had never heard of Chateau Marmont until I watched the Kermode video, so while watching the film without realising the legendary status of the place he was staying in, some scenes made more sense in retrospect than they did at the time. For example there’s a scene where Johnny steps into the lift, followed by Benicio Del Toro–playing himself I guess. As the lift ascends Benicio says, “What room are you in?”, to which Johnny replies, “59.” Benicio gives a little smile and says, “Cool. I met Bono in 59,” and then they get out of the lift and go their separate ways. At the time I had no idea what the hell they were talking about, but I do now. It’s this sort of assuming-you’re-‘with it’-regarding-the-Hollywood-lifestyle that Kermode hates, and I too found irritating. Johnny gets an access visit from his 11-year-old daughter, which turns into a prolonged stay, and it’s when Cleo is around that his life starts to resemble normality: out go the pole-dancing twins making house calls and in comes Guitar Hero on the Wii, card games and cooking. Yes, it’s a bit self-indulgent. Yes, it’s irritating and boring at times, but throughout I ‘got’ what Copolla was trying to convey and found it meaningful, sad, but also reassuring: the film made me feel a bit better about not being rich and famous myself. Not much, but a bit.