After trying her hand at a grand, sweeping, anachronistic period piece with 2006's Marie Antoinette, Hollywood royal Sofia Coppola is triumphantly restored to the familiar and, it would seem, far more comfortable domain of what both her detractors and enthusiasts have come to refer to as "little movies" with Somewhere. And the film is as little as they get: set almost entirely in hotel rooms–shot on location in the infamous Château Marmont Hotel–it features very little dialogue and boasts only one lead performer who, while no longer a movie star, certainly once bore claims to such a title: Stephen Dorff. Much like its–if not literal than at least spiritual–predecessor, Lost in Translation, Coppola's new film tells the story of a listless, world weary, philanderer: film star Johnny Marco, who lives in hotel suites where he languishes sadly in a booze and drug-fueled haze, drifting numbly through bland show business parties and press junkets, entertaining himself with casual sexual liasons and identical twin strippers. When his aimless and somewhat lonely existence is interrupted by the sudden appearance of his eleven year-old daughter from a failed marriage, Cleo (Elle Fanning)–with whose his care he has been temporarily charged–the two bond in a series of wild movie star jubilees and Johnny comes to regret some of the choices he's made, ultimately seeking–but, for the most part, not finding–redemption for his perceived failings as a father and husband.

As it stands to reason that the film is at least partially adapted from experiences of its writer/director's childhood–as very few people are not aware, she is the daughter of the legendary Francis Ford Coppola, who serves as a producer here–it also stands to reason that the brilliant, manifoldly gifted Cleo–who, when she isn't figure skating or poaching eggs at the level of a master chef, works on Sudoko puzzles–is the stand-in for a young Sofia Coppola, and that Somewhere is a personal film with the air of a candid memoir touching the lonely privileged life of a movie star and his estranged family, which is, at least in theory, of more interest to the viewing public than, say, a similiar story simply contrived by an equally talented–if not nearly as credible–source. And, though it is difficult to imagine as inordinate a number of women flinging themselves at Francis Ford Coppola, even in his heyday, that the younger Coppola can relate to the frustrations and disappointments of being raised by both a famous and occupationally inaccessible figure is reflected in nearly every scene featuring the two leads. With that said, there is really nothing in the film–save for the opening titles reminding the audience that they are watching the latest film by somebody named Coppola–to evidence that it was authored by a real-life "star's kid" who witnessed firsthand her father's debauchery: most of the film's scenes depicting that lifestyle would not feel too out of place in an episode of Entourage. And scenes of the "wise-beyond-her-years daughter playing discerning parent to her irresponsible overgrown kid of a father who doesn't deserve her" seem to have been as informed by other films covering similar subject matter as a real relationship.

But that the film bears fewer traces of an autobiography than a work of fiction rooted in the traditions of Fathers and Daughters dramas is far less annoying than Coppola's handling of show business satire, which could be described as naïvely condescending. It is during such scenes that the fairly naturalistic, conversational tone employed brilliantly in the film's first half lapses into zany comic parody, with the action star Johnny being, at one point, asked by a journalist if his latest film is a commentary on "postmodern globalization"; scenes set at an awards ceremony in Milan seem to dust off any number of moldy old Euro-stereotypes, and all of these fall in line with Coppola's awful habit of implementing contrivedly idiotic foils at whose inane prattlings her purportedly brilliant and misunderstood characters can sagely roll their eyes–for example, a grown woman who asks an 11-year-old girl if she has a boyfriend. However, some of her observations are more pointed: during an early scene in which Johnny roots about in his bathroom, a sample packet of the hair-regrowth medication Propecia can be seen resting on his sink; in another, the 5-foot-7-inch Dorff is made to stand on a wooden block to pose for a promotional picture with a tall leading lady. And most poignant, at times even moving, are those quiet, desolate scenes depicting Johnny's both very literal and rather figurative loneliness: the film's opening sequence–nearly five minutes of Johnny driving his Ferrari in circles in the desert–provides a perfect visual metaphor for his personality, and a neat encapsulation of the film's core themes.

But, unfortunately, very few of the film's minor characters are not bland, walking clichés: Johnny's P.A. is, of course, a cartoonish yes-woman figure; Johnny's groupies are far from living, breathing human beings with opinions and tastes, perhaps compelled to the star by his indefatigable charisma: they are simply "the groupies." When it becomes apparent that virtually every minor character–except that of Johnny's best friend, played by an awkwardly funny Chris Pontius–fits this description, it becomes even more difficult to accept that this is a real, human story and, for this reason, its intendedly real, human moments are ever the more difficult to digest. Johnny and Cleo's relationship never seems all that distant or failed, even though we are constantly reminded that he has been largely absent in her life and knows very little about her. Of course, 90 minutes of "the truth"–being, that distant workaholic fathers, celebrities or not, nearly always have strained relationships with their daughters–would be horribly unbearable. In fact, the film is so full of love, and depicts so many authentic moments of father-daughter bonding, that when Johnny finally seeks forgiveness from his daughter as she is preparing to be helicoptered off to sleepaway camp–over the roar of the propellers, he is heard to say something like "I'm sorry I wasn't around," though the line is rendered partially inaudible; many will recall that Coppola employed a similar device for the denouement of Lost in Translation–that for which he is repenting is not entirely clear. One possible explanation for this discrepancy is that the film may have been written in such a way that the explication of Johnny's deficiencies as a father was left in the hands of the actors.

While Elle Fanning acquits herself admirably at this task, and is quite believable as the daughter of an inaccessible father, it is Dorff who struggles to flesh out his good looking airhead film actor. Firstly, it's even difficult to accept Dorff as a fictional A-list movie star, not only because he isn't a movie star, but because he's always been a little too squirrelly and intense to fulfill the requirements a big, dumb handsome leading man–which is perhaps why his performance in I Shot Andy Warhol was so brilliant. It's slightly more difficult to accept him as a sex symbol, but this is less relevant. I think that the strongest testimony to Coppola's irresolute attitude towards Johnny's choices is the fact that, while I thoroughly enjoyed the proceedings and laughed when I was supposed to have laughed, I didn't really tear up when I supposed to have teared up, and never really believed that I was watching anything other than a frothy upbeat film which, in its final act, quite inexplicably descends into melodrama.

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