If there’s been an uncomplimentary rap in many of the early reviews of Oscar-winning writer-director Sofia Coppola’s "Somewhere," it’s that few American films in recent memory feature less dialogue and less action (at least in the typical sense) than this episodic drama about fatherhood and celebrity, which reaches theaters Wednesday.
Nearly 15 minutes elapse before a character utters a single word on screen. A Ferrari goes around and around a racetrack for a full three minutes in the opening sequence. And in a totally wordless scene that must mark a first in cinema, leading man Stephen Dorff –- as a dissolute B-list star living at Hollywood’s Chateau Marmont -- is shown smoking a cigarette from start to finish in one long, drawn-out static shot.
Coppola’s stated intention with such filmmaking sounds reasonable enough: “To see how simple you could make a movie. To not be aware of the camera and have it not feel like a movie. To make a portrait of this guy at this moment in his life,” she said. (In a Calendar section story, the writer-director also explained "Somewhere's" personal and family resonances.)
According to Dorff, who was still puffing away on a Camel Light during an interview at Beverly Hills’ Four Seasons Hotel earlier this month, the process of making such a stripped-down film began with an equally bare bones script –- a screenplay he describes as “a 47-page pamphlet.”