Lost In Translation (2003)
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Review Date: September 16, 2003
Director: Sofia Coppola
Writer: Sofia Coppola
Producers: Sofia Coppola, Ross Katz
Bill Murray as Bob
Scarlett Johansson as Charlotte
Anna Faris as Kelly
An aging American actor is in Japan to shoot a whiskey commercial for lots of money. His wife is home with the kids, and their marriage is rocky, at best. In his hotel, he meets a young woman, killing time as her husband/photographer works around the clock. Suffering from insomnia, the two lost souls slowly discover the city, and more about themselves, together.
This is the kind of movie that my parents would shut off halfway through and slap me upside the head for recommending in the first place. It's slow, it's introspective, it features a number of scenes with no dialogue & characters simply walking about town, and ultimately, it doesn't have much to say...on the surface. Yes, LOST IN TRANSLATION has already become the early "critic's darling" of the year and despite it being a darn good film, I for one, can't say that it's anything more than a sweet homage to Japan as seen through the eyes of two lonely, conflicted Americans, each grappling with questions about their respective existence. The film's soundtrack, much like the one Coppola utilized in her previously overrated directorial debut, THE VIRGIN SUICIDES, is also worthy of notice, especially the way in which the songs resonated with the material. The cinematography, the whole look and feel of the picture was also breathtaking (the golf course shot was particularly divine), with many scenes in and around Tokyo, really giving you a true sense of the differences in culture as well as the alienation felt by its lead characters. The acting was also solid, although once again, I can't agree with most others out there, who seem to be shouting "Oscar!" for both Murray and Johannson. I don't know what criteria others consider when acknowledging great acting gigs, but I personally need a little more than playing things "straight-face" as Murray does brilliantly throughout this entire film (although he did that even better in RUSHMORE, in my opinion). Johansson is also good, but again, her character, much like Murray's isn't really emotive or challenged enough to be considered as a brilliant performance, in my humble opinion.

But my main issue with the film, which like I said earlier, despite an extremely deliberate pace (read: very slow) managed to hook me with its existential theme dipped in the connection between human beings, loneliness, suffering, etc..., was its bottom line, which was a courageous approach to utilize (on the surface, all we're shown is two strangers meeting in a foreign city and spending some mostly frivolous time together), but not an altogether fulfilling one once everything was said and done. It reminded me a lot of ABOUT SCHMIDT in that sense, but at least with that film, I was overpowered by the time the final shot came around and understood some of what that journey must have meant, and felt like. Here, we get a resolution, but it wasn't a touching, emotional or particularly profound one...although I did love the "whisper"...brilliant! Then again, it took me three viewings of ABOUT SCHMIDT to fully grasp its deeper meaning, so who knows, maybe I was just a little slow on the uptake today. Having said that, if you're the type of person (kind of like my parents), who likes their movies straightforward, fast-paced, filled with obvious plot points or greater emotional impact, I'm not sure if this "artsy" flick will sit well with you. If, on the other hand, you enjoy contemplating your existence, don't mind sitting through a slow-to-develop "plot" about two strangers hanging out and connecting on some level or another, buy yourself a ticket to this film and discover its more insightful meaning to you. Oh yeah, it's also got some pretty funny moments featuring Murray's character, the washed-up actor, clashing with Japanese culture, in case you thought that it was just a dry drama. Personally, I had simply read/heard way too much hyperbole about this movie before my screening, so I couldn't help but feel a little let down afterwards. Hopefully, my review will lower your expectations a touch and allow you to fully enjoy the piece as it was intended. I would definitely catch it again some time, hopefully with a drink in one hand and a letter to my loved one in the other.
(c) 2018 Berge Garabedian

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