Still rolling Sofia Coppola’s movie around in the mind. It has its share of critics, which is fine, but I think a lot of them are missing the point, and revealing their own hang-ups with her charmed life and career. Better to set that aside.
As I see it, Johnny Marco suffers from a malady called celebrity. The entertainer canâ€™t be entertained: a steady stream of Hollywood pleasure-on-demand has deadened his nerve endings. Joy must belong to his humbler past. Things are different now: all that material success has led to an inner failure, something nicely hit upon by Walter Benjamin (1928: success dulls the mind) and Willie Nelson (1977: so-called successful lives leave behind the basics of love).
In Johnnyâ€™s pampered present, heâ€™s absent. Physically heâ€™s there, drifting through the parties and the junkets, into the anonymous bedrooms. But heâ€™s emotionally elsewhere. Often seen as the summit of American successâ€”the rise from mere man to big-screen heroâ€”Coppola gives us an insiderâ€™s view of stardom as a somewhat tragicomic condition of existence. From her casting (Chris Pontius, the girl from the Office) to her art direction (the spot-on â€œBerlin Agendaâ€ poster) one can safely infer that she has a sense of humor about this: the crucial â€œcomicâ€ in â€œtragicomic.â€ After all, it is not exactly profound or innovative to argue that money and fame do not beget happiness; this is not Somewhereâ€™s aim. Instead the film serves more as evocation than argument, watching with sympathy and patience and even humor how todayâ€™s cultural gods reveal and cherish their humanity, how they mourn its surrender, and ache for its recovery.