Owen Gleiberman
December 30, 2010 AT 05:00 AM EST

As Johnny Marco, the dissolute, sexy, deeply lost Hollywood movie star at the center of Sofia Coppola’s Somewhere, Stephen Dorff finally has a role tailored to what an ace actor he can be. Johnny, hopping beds and limousines, slinks through his days like a passive snake, going wherever he’s told, from a cretinous press junket to a makeup session in which his head gets slathered in latex. As long as he shows up, spewing monosyllables in a hungover daze, he’s adored by everyone. Without even trying, he knows how to play the role of a too-cool-for-school screen idol. At times, Somewhere is like Entourage minus the entourage, except that Coppola works in very slow deadpan exploratory takes, putting the film world — publicists, groupies, the sleaze-chic culture of the Chateau Marmont, where Johnny lives — under a behavioral microscope.

Somewhere is also a tale of alienation, as well as a father-daughter buddy movie. Johnny, you see, has a problem: He’s such a star, such an image, that he doesn’t know who he is. He likes to whip around the desert in his black Ferrari (shades of Antonioni, or maybe Vincent Gallo), but only by taking care of Cleo, his 11-year-old daughter from a broken marriage, can he find himself. It helps that Cleo is played by Elle Fanning, a more wide-awake actress than her sister, Dakota. The movie’s redemptive structure is a bit routine, yet I watched nearly every scene with a sense of discovery. Coppola is a true filmmaker, and in Somewhere she pierces the Hollywood bubble from the inside. B+

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