12/28/2010 11:36 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Sofia Coppola's American Dream: Somewhere

LA's Chateau Marmont commands center stage in much of the coverage of Sofia Coppola's new movie Somewhere, but taking a cue from the title, the subject is anywhere but that famed hotel, where in a bygone era John Belushi died of a drug overdose.

Stephen Dorff plays a big star named Johnny Marco, encased in celebrity there. Smoking, drinking, picking up an endless supply of women, he is, perhaps, a 2010 embodiment of "living the dream," but no matter how many synchronized pole dancers wiggle their wares before him, the empty space between his ears is palpable. At a fictive press conference, one reporter asks in a familiar rhetorical tone, Who is Johnny Marco? Indeed.

Of course Somewhere was awarded top prize at the Venice Film Festival; in one sequence, the star -- his wise, doting daughter Cleo in tow (a lovely performance by Elle Fanning) -- go to Italy as part of a promotion tour. You have to love how Coppola doesn't bother with subtitles, engaging her Lost in Translation metaphor: in whatever language, you know what is said. The gesture is all. You get the gushing: Oh those gesticulating Italians! It's like watching a reality show with a Fellini soundtrack.

Smart, emblematic, Somewhere is a must-see movie. Granted, you have to get used to its languorous LA rhythms as you enter Johnny Marco's consciousness. Somewhere ends with the beginning of a new story that you script in your head, with the stripped-down tropes of the American dream: a road and a man. The frontier is just on the horizon.

This post also appears on Gossip Central.