Johnny Marco is in the middle of a major life crisis. His life seems directionless. Maybe it’s depression. Or maybe it’s anhedonia or soul-crushing ennui. Whatever it is, he doesn’t seem to feel much of anything, and he’s looking for a fix anywhere he can.
He sits on the couch and takes a few swigs from his beer. He closes his eyes and drifts off to sleep. He pops a handful of pills. He bounces around work events but isn’t the exciting centerpiece everybody wants him to be. He drives his Ferrari in circles, literally and figuratively spinning his wheels. Some nights he hires women to pole dance to Foo Fighters songs for him, creating his own private motel-room shows.
This is Sofia Coppola’s “Somewhere”, and it’s screening this week at Portland State’s 5th Avenue Cinema.
Stephen Dorff plays Marco, an action star recently elevated to fame. Recovering from an injury that goes oddly unexplained, he holes up in the Chateau Marmont, a famous retreat for Hollywood celebrities.
In the safety of the famous hotel, he is accountable only to himself while he struggles through his existential crisis. But things change when his ex-wife unexpectedly leaves him with his 11-year-old daughter Cleo, played by Elle Fanning. It’s probably clear by now that he’s not a great or reliable father.
Like Coppola’s previous works, especially “Lost in Translation”, “Somewhere” is a masterful story told through a melancholy lens. Those unfamiliar with the feeling of living under the blanket of depression might have difficulty relating to or decoding some of the what the film has to offer—it might come across as a snooze fest.
Watching Marco suffer through emptiness evokes similar sensations of pain. And because of it, “Somewhere” appears to be boring and uneventful on the surface. The film seems to inch along at a snail’s pace nearly without going anywhere. And that’s kind of the point; it all feels uncomfortably real.
Have you experienced that feeling when the seconds painfully bleed into minutes and you’re consciously aware of how slowly you’re advancing into the future? It’s like that. You get sick of the damn thing and want to get up and shut it off, but you can’t. You’re stuck with it. In many ways it’s not so much a film as it is a case study of depression.
“Somewhere” is a distressing film, sure, but it’s not a completely bleak experience. Exposure to his daughter forces Marco to open up and feel emotions again for the first time since we can only imagine how long. Depending on your perspective, it can be something of a hopeful film. If this guy can get through it, maybe I can too; and maybe I can do it without the Ferrari and the Foo Fighters.
5th Avenue Cinema is free for Portland State students, $3 for other students and seniors, $4 general admission. Digital screenings are free for all attendees. For more information about 5th Avenue Cinema and upcoming showings, visit www.5thavecinema.com.