Stephen Dorff plays a successful movie actor living a hollow and largely meaningless Hollywood life consisting of fleeting and shallow relations and relationships. He is barely participating in his own life, but rather sleepwalking through it without letting himself become particularly affected by it in neither a positive or negative way. Then he is given the task of taking care of his 11-year-old daughter (Elle Fanning) for a few weeks, and slowly he rediscovers some of the joys of life.
As directed by Sofia Coppola, Somewhere is pleasant to look at, and she aims to activate our emotions and sense of social criticism, even if she does it in an extremely inhibited and low-key manner. Johnny and Cleo are sympathetic individuals, but they are never very interesting, and if Coppola finds the environment they exist in to be interesting, she doesn't communicate this interest with any enthusiasm. Consequently, Somewhere remains an aloof social criticism with small hints of clever and funny writing. As a character study, it is too faint and unremarkable to make an impression, and although Dorff and Fanning both create good foundations for fine performances, they really don't have anything to work with.
It seems Coppola is toying with how close a portrayal of the modern, consumeristic Hollywood can resemble 1960-ish Nouvelle Vague, complete with an almost neorealistic eventlessness. That contrast in and of itself may be interesting academically, but Coppola isn't able to convert it to anything of artistic value – except for through a handful of separate shots and compositions which I suspect primarily will interest film students and society members.