Lost in Translation
Japan is a weird place. Especially for Americans. And that's a fact. For one, people there can watch commercials with big-name Hollywood actors touting hawking products they would never think of doing here. One such actor is Bob Harris (Bill Murray, The Royal Tenenbaums, Osmosis Jones), in town to do some commercials for Santori Whiskey. The words that flash across the screen of Lost in Translation's preview say it best, "Bob is an actor. Bob is lost." Harris is literally and figuratively lost in writer/director Sophia Coppola's second film, a vast improvement on her first, the already impressive The Virgin Suicides. For her inspiration, Coppola (Lick the Star) drew upon some of her own experiences in Tokyo. She, like Bob, is in awe of her larger-than-life surroundings. Each cannot speak the language, and each has a horrible case of jet lag.
Bob's jet lag is so bad that he cannot sleep. Working through his commercials is a surreal experience. All his instructions come through translators, and he is too tired to think straight. He spends his time in the hotel bar, where he meets Charlotte (Scarlett Johansson, Eight Legged Freaks, An American Rhapsody), a kindred spirit. She is in Tokyo while her husband John (Giovanni Ribisi, Basic, Masked and Anonymous), a photographer, is on assignment. They are a young couple, and Charlotte is beginning to realize that there are huge differences between them. She is extremely bored, and when John is around he seems to busy to notice. Things worsen when Kelly (Anna Faris, The Hot Chick, Scary Movie 2), a model, arrives and asks John to photograph her. Bob's marriage isn't great either, and the two begin spending time together to alleviate their loneliness.
Their relationship is at the heart of Lost in Translation. Decades separate them, yet the things they have in common bring them together. They are both smart people, with wry senses of humor. And it is beautiful how Coppola allows their friendship to play out. Yes, it is a friendship, and a strange one at that. How can two people so different have so much in common? One is a famous movie star, the other is a young lady. Any other movie would have them hopping into bed together, but what Coppola does seems deeper, so much more intimate. And Murray is one of the few actors who can pull off a role like this, which constantly mixes humor with serious themes. Murray has a great background in comedy and fantastic timing, but is wonderful in his various dramatic roles, especially here as Bob Harris. Lost in Translation is not quite a comedy, but has many hilarious moments. Harris looks so tired, physically and mentally, but is still sharp enough to make sardonic observations on the things going on around him. Johansson is one of the few young actors with some substance, and although she hasn't done much, what she has done has been impressive (well, most of what she's done).
Lost in Translation is also notable for its quiet moments. Coppola is happy to have the camera linger on Tokyo life, with little dialogue, and minimal music. The music by Brian Reitzell and Kevin Shields, along with a great song by Air, give the film a laid-back feeling, and at times it almost feels like a dream. Tokyo streets look like Times Square on crack, with crowds of people, impossibly tall buildings, and neon everywhere. Coppola also is sparse sometimes for dialogue. Bob and Charlotte don't need to talk constantly, they are happy with each other's company. One really good decision Coppola makes is to forgo the use of subtitles. By not seeing what the Japanese people are saying, the viewer is just as lost as Bob is. Everything here is about mood, one of gentle confusion, and Coppola deftly combines all the elements together to give Lost in Translation an overall cohesive feeling. One can hardly wait to see what she does next.
|Mongoose Rates It: Really Good.|
|1 hour 45 minutes, Rated R for some sexual content.|
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