Sofia Coppola's new film, Somewhere (which seems like it should be titled Nowhere) is about the emptiness at the core of a person's existence that leads to bad things psychologically - including addiction.

 

The Stanton Peele Addiction Website, December 27, 2010. This blog post also appeared on Stanton's Addiction in Society blog at PsychologyToday.com.

Film and Addiction I: "Somewhere," filling the day as the antidote to addiction

Sofia Coppola's new film, Somewhere, embodies addiction.

Which is odd in a way, since the central character - Johnny Marco - doesn't take illicit drugs and isn't an alcoholic. He does drink too much, falling and breaking his arm early in the film while partying, and drinking concertedly at a party thrown by his brother at his own apartment where he is bored and seems incapable of relating to anybody (nonetheless ending up in bed with a woman he doesn't know).

He does usually have a bottle of beer open, and he does fall asleep under the influence of narcotics several times while recovering from his injury. But ordinarily, he drinks moderately at meals, doesn't get drunk around his daughter (who stays with him for a period), and doesn't ever seek alcohol or drugs compulsively.

He mainly drinks out of discomfort and since he has nothing else to do. He has no friends (other than occasional visits from his daughter and brother); he has no interests (other than making and promoting films - he's supposed to be a star); he doesn't even seem to work out (although the actor playing Johnny, Stephen Dorff, has a body to die for).

So what is "Somewhere" about? It's about filling one's day. And Johnny can't manage it. You would think a starring actor - making one film, promoting another, winning awards - would be busy. Not Johnny - he has time to burn. Whenever he is expected somewhere, his manager - an unseen woman - calls him, always seeming to surprise him with what's next on his schedule. He dutifully fulfills these obligations - he's not about to just throw away this privileged life he occupies.

Johnny has tons of sex, but no intimacy. He has an ex-wfie and a daughter he clearly adores. He has a brother he shares childhood experiences with - which only his brother ever details. He has a woman he calls out of the depths of his despair. He has an iPad stalker. But Johnny doesn't seem to have the energy to reveal himself or find out about any of these people - although he praises and appreciates his daughter and cares about her feelings.

At one point, daughter Cleo hefts a bunch of scripts, and asks Johnny if he's read them. He tells her he hasn't, and then says maybe she could read them for him. (Is it only me, or does that seem like a good idea? Even though Cleo's a kid, she's obviously got her wits about her and is extremely competent. Yet she also seems to be enmeshed in melancholia - her mother has just left her in Johnny's hands for an undetermined time for unspoken reasons.)

Don't movie stars have to read scripts, or have people read them for them, so that they can remain stars? Or, is Johnny - with his injury and seeming absence of concern for his health, his melancholy, his occasional binges - on the verge of losing his almost magical-seeming place in the film world?

I don't think he'll be a happier person if he does. Because it's not the pressures of his life that depress him. It's the emptiness of his life.

Which brings us back to addiction. If Johnny gets hooked on his painkillers, or if his drunken escapades and escapes become a larger part of his life, this will be because he has nothing to anchor him, even the usual constraints and requirements most people have that fill ordinary lives - families, household chores, work, hobbies, exercising at the gym - you know, the ho-hum, sometimes painstaking stuff that fills people's days.

Because, you see, addicts often don't have or accept or welcome these things, leaving them plenty of spare time - necessitating - an addiction to fill the core of their lives.