Movie Review: 'Take Me Somewhere Nice'
Danish-Croatian road 'comedy' Take Me Somewhere Nice is beautiful but empty.
Take Me Somewhere Nice is a stylish bit of nothing in particular. Aimless and odd but not nearly quirky enough to justify the odd, the directorial debut of Croatian-Danish filmmaker Ena Sendijarevic is supposedly reminiscent of the work of Jim Jarmusch but with a European twist. I can see the the alleged influence, but never having been a huge fan of Jarmusch, I wasn’t particularly enamored with the comparison made by many of my fellow Western critics.
Take Me Somewhere Nice stars Sara Luna Zoric as Alma, a bored young woman living in Denmark with her mother. When Alma hears that her long absent father, living in his home country of Croatia, has fallen deathly ill, she conspires to go to Croatia to say goodbye. Though her mother, played by Sanja Burjic, refuses to go herself, she nevertheless sets up Alma with a place to stay and a semblance of a plan for her arrival.
Nothing goes to plan. Despite making promises to Alma’s mother, Alma’s no good cousin Emir (Ernad Prnjavorac) almost immediately abandons Alma. He, at the very least, drops her at his apartment but is openly hostile to her. When she raises the idea of when he will drive her to the city where her father is hospitalized, he immediately states that he won’t do it. On top of Emir’s rudeness, Alma cannot seem to open her stylish new luggage, leaving her only one dress to wear for her entire trip.
It’s not all terrible thankfully as Alma meets Emir’s friend, Denis (Lazar Dragojevic) who provides some distraction. The two almost immediately have quick and dirty sex in an elevator, seemingly to alleviate their mutual boredom, and exploiting their obvious attraction. Alma however, is quickly dismayed to learn that Denis has a girlfriend and their dalliance becomes yet another sour note in her trip.
Eventually, tiring of Emir’s condescending attitude, and stinging from her encounter with Denis, Alma decides to hop a bus to go see her father. Like everything else, this decision goes awry. Alma gets left behind at a bus stop and her suitcase disappears into the Croatian bus system. With it goes all of her money, clothes and other necessities. Things get so bad that Alma appears to deeply consider sex work to get to her destination before Emir and Denis intervene.
I will stop the plot description there as I will leave you to experience where Take Me Somewhere Nice is headed. Perhaps you will find the humor that I never really found in the movie. I found the meandering tone and the run of the mill mishaps more harrowing than humorous. I couldn’t find the fun other critics seem to find in Take Me Somewhere Nice. The film appears to want to be funny, I can sense where humorous beats are meant to be, but I find describing Alma’s Jobian trials on her way to see her Dad funnier to describe than it was to watch.
I’ve seen some praise for the movie's liberated approach to female sexuality and I understand the praise. Alma is not hung up on the kind of guilt we in America have come to associate with female sexuality. This, again, is a very Western, very American perspective. European films have hardly had the kind of hang ups we’ve had for decades in America. We praise movies with liberated sexuality based on our very Western view of sex. I’m sure critics in Europe are not as fussed with a female character who is sexually liberated. For them, she’s just a character and not a symbol of our collective, American, repressed sexuality, guilt and shame.
I may not be European, and I may still have some of the same hang ups as my fellow American critics, but I wasn’t particularly excited by the sexuality of Take Me Somewhere Nice. I found the sex in Take Me Somewhere Nice to be rather more odd than sexy. The first sex scene is the best, an abrupt, down and dirty quicky between two people who were just eager to have sex. That’s fun and relatable.
The other sex in the movie is presented in the strangest fashion. I sense the intention toward transgression but if repulsion was the intention, I guess you win movie. I was rather repulsed by the other set piece sex scenes. I’m trying to talk around spoilers here so I can’t entirely go into why one sex scene made me queasy. And the other one, is at the very end and while this isn’t a movie that can be spoiled per se, there are no big twists happening here, I still don't feel comfortable explaining the ending of the movie, if you do indeed wish to see it. Take Me Somewhere Nice is an experience style movie where the whole is more important than parts such as a beginning, middle and end, thus I don't wish to spoil the experience with too much description as I don't dislike this movie enough to tell you not to see it.
The final sex scene in Take Me Somewhere Nice baffled me with it’s bizarre circumstance. I was so puzzled trying to suss out the deeper meaning behind the scene that I became frustrated and gave up and that’s just not an experience I want to recommend to you, dear reader. But then, perhaps you won’t be so frustrated. Perhaps, like my fellow critics who have made Take Me Somewhere Nice 100% positive on RottenTomatoes.com, you will find the wavelength of Take Me Somewhere Nice and enjoy the experience. It’s just not for me.
I do wish to say however, despite being put off by the story and the meandering scenes that take eons to go somewhere, that Take Me Somewhere Nice is a great looking movie. Cinematographer Emo Weemhoff gives a great look to everything and the locations chosen for each scene are rather perfect, a mixture of gritty lower socio-economic urbanity and pastoral, European countryside. Each scene location is flawless and beautifully captured, moody and lovely all at the same time. I wish the movie were as good as the settings for the scenes and the shot choices.
I have no doubt that director Eva Sendijarevic is incredibly talented, she brought these visual elements together under her direction. My hope for Sendijarevic in the future is a more cohesive approach to storytelling, one that either lingers as beautifully as the images in Take Me Somewhere Nice or is compelling beyond the strength of the director's style. I may not have connected with Take Me Somewhere Nice but I am compelled to want to see what Sendijarevic does next.