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Life at the Chateau Marmont

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The Chateau Marmont is a hotel in West Hollywood that has become infamous as a sanctuary for celebrities. Keanu Reeves lived there for years. Lindsay Lohan sought refuge there after a 2007 drunk driving arrest. John Belushi died in one of the Marmont‘s bungalows. And Somewhere, Sofia Coppola’s fourth endeavor as a writer-director, was filmed and almost entirely set within the placid, almost-quaint confines of the hotel. the film languidly chronicles the daily existence of Johnny Marco, a fresh movie star who, between film projects, fritters away his time at the Chateau. the perpetually unshaven Stephen Dorff, as Marco, is barely required to act, as he ostensibly plays Stephen Dorff in a fictional universe where he is more famous.

While Marco’s days of sleeping, drinking, staring vacantly at the twin pole-dancers performing in his room, and driving his Ferrari in circles are sometimes interrupted by photo shoots and press junkets, Marco is, by and large, adrift in a world that demands little of him. Besides a ceaseless parade of indifferent sexual encounters, the actor’s only companion is his affable childhood friend Sammy (portrayed by Chris Pontius of Jackass fame).

Things change for Marco with the arrival of his charming 11-year-old daughter Cleo (Elle Fanning), whose mother disappears for undefined reasons. it’s tempting to react with indignation during the second half of the film, as its protagonist is essentially forced by circumstance to pick himself up and realize, “oh yeah, i have a child, whom i often neglect. i should become an adult now, because my life has meaning and stuff.”

Nevertheless, Somewhere, like Lost in Translation (the Coppola film it most directly resembles), overcomes the obvious subtext — that money and fame don’t buy happiness — through a consistency of tone, and a sincere minimalism. Coppola’s greatest strength is her ability to create a quiet and mesmerizing mood that settles in and remains well after her movie ends.


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