MPAA Rating: R

Entertainment: +2

Content: -4

Stephen Dorff, Elle Fanning. Comedy/drama. Written & directed by Sophia Coppola.

FILMS YNOPSIS: A celebrated action-hero movie star seems adrift despite all the acclaim and possessions bestowed upon the famous. He deadens his unrest with pills and by sleeping around. But when his 11-year-old daughter from a failed marriage comes to live with him, he slowly (ever so slowly) begins to question the path he has taken.

PREVIEW REVIEW: As with her excellent character study, Lost in Translation, director Sophia Coppola examines how the entrapments of celebrity can detour one down a wrong path. Certainly, more successful with the Bill Murray film, due to Bill Murray and Scarlett Johannson, nonetheless, Somewhere has a theme that can register with famous and non alike. Stephen Dorff, a Mark Wahlberg-type, gives a sincere, but lackluster performance. Again I come back to Lost in Translation. Bill Murray demonstrated that he is not only one of Hollywood’s most gifted comedians, but also an actor capable of a responsive, thoughtful role. Beneath his cynical, lackadaisical persona dwells a man of character. In Lost in Translation, Murray plays an over-the-hill movie star, frustrated with his career’s direction and disillusioned with his 25-year marriage. The leads are not perfect people. They are simply wounded human beings afraid of the dark. He often anesthetizes himself with whisky, and she also seeks substitutes for facing life’s ethereal questions. But when done effectively, we can often learn as much from the struggles of the confused as we can from the preachings of the enlightened. The tragedy is that our two likable leads in that film seek ways of numbing themselves to life rather than addressing the spiritual nature that lies dormant within them.

That’s the fault found in both films. The filmmaker makes a point that the direction for each life can be overlooked by attention given to life’s trappings (the everyday business of life). However, she fails to have her characters investigate a spiritual significance. People are mental, physical and spiritual beings. When that third category is denied, no amount of the other two aspects will bring contentment. So, Ms. Coppola fails to offer any substantive solution. Has she done this on purpose, hoping viewers will seek their own path to salvation? Or, is she still questioning what really brings contentment?

Somewhere receives its R-rating mostly for sexual situations and nudity. Surprisingly, the actors and screenwriter avoid objectionable language, mostly. Ms. Coppola has learned from her dad (yes, that Coppola) how to tell a story, and the young filmmaker, like her dad, takes her time, giving viewers a leisurely film experience that has something to say – or at least, raises questions of depth.

DVD Alternatives: The Apostle (1997). This perceptive drama, written, directed and starring Robert Duvall, never condescends, nor is it antagonistic toward people of faith while telling its story of a good but imperfect man’s redemption. PG-13. I found nothing offensive for exploitive purposes. The implied adultery, its one violent scene, the reverend's faulty nature, and a couple of mild expletives serve to further the story rather than shock us or malign the ministry.

The Gospel. A semi-autobiographical film about the transformative power of faith and forgiveness, The Gospel is a contemporary drama packed with the soaring, soulful sounds of gospel music. Set in the impassioned world of the African-American church, The Gospel tells the story of David Taylor (Boris Kodjoe), a dynamic young R&B star torn between his successful new life and the one he used to know. (Hey, it came out in 2008 – take that, you eye-rollers!)

C.S. Lewis’s Through the Shadowlands. Not to be confused with the Anthony Hopkins/Debra Winger version (simply titled Shadowlands), this account of the Christian author’s friendship and eventual marriage to a woman who discovers she is dying stars Josh Ackland and Clair Bloom. This is a lovely, thoughtful film. Maybe hard to find, but worth the effort.

Preview Reviewer: Phil Boatwright
Focus Features

The following categories contain objective listings of film content which contribute to the subjective numeric Content ratings posted to the left and on the Home page.

Crude Language: A few crude sexual remarks

Obscene Language: Two obscenities (the f-word) and a couple of minor expletives.

Profanity: One misuse of Christ’s name.

Violence: None

Sex: Several sexual situations, showing the lead’s attempt to anesthetize himself to his lack of direction.

Nudity: Several scenes involve nudity.

Sexual Dialogue/Gesture: None.

Drugs: Drinking and drug use – sometimes shown in a destructive manner, but mostly it comes across as casual use.

Other: None

Running Time: 98 minutes
Intended Audience: Adults

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