Lost in Translation (2003)


Starring: Bill Murray, Scarlett Johansson, Giovanni Ribisi, Anna Faris

Director: Sofia Coppola

Summary: A faded movie star and a neglected young woman form an unlikely bond after crossing paths in Tokyo

Other Nominations: Director, Actor (Murray), Original Screenplay*

I enjoyed it, although I don’t have the same level of praise a lot of people do for the movie. I can certainly relate to most of its themes (alienation and an inability to connect, what am I going to do with my life (who am I and what do I want), marriage) and it does a good (although I would not say exceptional) job of exploring those themes through its characters. Murray is a perfect fit for the lead and is able to exhibit a lot of pathos without resorting to scenery chewing, but Johansson stood out to me even more. She was only 18 at the time, and yet she’s believably playing 25 because of her voice and how she carries herself in general; Faris is 26, yet if you didn’t know better, you would think Johansson is the same age or maybe even older.

My problems with the movie are two-fold. The biggest one is that it’s too laid back for my taste and even for what is almost purely a thematic and character piece, lacks any sort of real plot. The second is one that I’m not completely sure how I feel about to be honest. The film provides a very superficial look at Japan (heck, I’m shocked they never teased them going to a love hotel), and the main characters only engage with the country, its people and culture in the shallowest and broadest of ways with no interest in learning anything beyond that: the country feels alien and strange to them because they choose to keep that distance and only think about how things are different. However, it’s hard to say if this is a bug (making the cheapest and laziest types of jokes in this type of movie-”oh those wacky foreigners!”), or a feature: the filmmakers did this intentional because Murray and Johansson have a hard time engaging with the country on any real level of depth in the same way they seem to be having a hard to time engaging on a deep level with anything other than each other. I’m leaning more towards the latter (after all, Coppola wrote this movie based partially on her trips to Japan that I would imagine felt very similar to the ones the main characters had). Ultimately, it makes the character look kind of like assholes/jerkass foreigners and I don’t think that’s intentional and it detracts from the main characters’ story. Even with that, I did enjoy the little journey these two characters had a lot, it felt sincere and even with its faults is a film worth watching.

Rating: B


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