Ian Fielding: Defending the Ending of SomewherePosted: January 23, 2011
Many critics have bemoaned the strained finale to Sofia Coppola’s Somewhere, Perhaps they are missing something. What? Let’s take a look at the film itself. The message is suggested: just because you’re rich and successful it doesn’t mean that you’re leading a fulfilling life. Then what sort of life? Our central character, Johnny, (Stephan Dorff) pursues his vices, drinks liberally, hires pole dancers to perform at the foot of his bed. He’s a Hollywood actor of some note and as such he fends of earnest acolytes, goes along with the occasional sexual advance and generally stumbles indifferently on a kind of drowsy autopilot through inane media questioning and sheets of flash photography. Salvation seems to arrive in the form of an unexpected visit from his daughter (Elle Fanning).
Johnny makes a casual success of his parenting. Although his successes seem to stem largely from leveraging his money and fame for effect rather than winning over his sceptical but supportive daughter with the nature of his character. Johnny summons guitarists to play for the pair of them and orders excessive amounts of ice cream. The portrait is at turns touching though, especially their playful exchange in the Chateau Marmont swimming pool.
So if Johnny is dead inside, what does he do to break from his impasse? He creates a drama in his life. He manufactures a crisis from a minor incident in order to feel alive again. He creates resistance within himself, the kind of resistance he fails to receive from the outside world.
Could this be why the ending of the film is a kind of masterstroke? The ending is forced, sentimental, unreal, a contrast to the gently natural series of observations we’ve been witness to. Then is it not just like Johnny’s own solution to his problem? He breaks through the ennui by forcing a classic Hollywood cliché upon himself.
If the ending is unsatisfactory it is because Johnny’s solution to his own problem is unsatisfactory. In a sort of Dr Phil, new age, LA quackery way he breaks through cheaply… but at least he breaks through? Sofia Coppola has discovered that redemption can be cheap. Remember the self help CD Scarlett Johansson was listening to in Lost in Translation?
My name’s Ian. I’m a writer and Filmmaker from London currently shooting my second feature film – a detective thriller called Dead Unicorns
To see pics, a trailer and what’s currently happening with Dead Unicorns click here:
Follow FilmAche on Twitter