Middle-aged American movie star Bob Harris is in Tokyo to film a personal endorsement Suntory whiskey ad solely for the Japanese market. He is past his movie star prime, but his name and image still have enough cachet for him to have gotten this lucrative $2 million job. He has an unsatisfying home life where his wife Lydia follows him wherever he goes - in the form of messages and faxes - for him to deal with the minutiae of their everyday lives, while she stays at home to look after their kids. Staying at the same upscale hotel is fellow American, twenty-something recent Yale Philosophy graduate Charlotte, her husband John, an entertainment still photographer, who is on assignment in Japan. As such, she is largely left to her own devices in the city, especially when his job takes him out of Tokyo. Both Bob and Charlotte are feeling lost by their current situations, which are not helped by the cultural barriers they feel in Tokyo, those cultural barriers extending far beyond just not... Written by
Bob is asked to channel Roger Moore for his photo shoot. Later, we see a karaoke performance of "Nobody Does It Better", the theme to one of Moore's own Bond movies, The Spy Who Loved Me. See more »
In the opening scene when Bob Harris is arriving in his taxi, he is looking out the window at the bright lights of Shinjuku where his hotel is located. The one sign he notices however (the red bannered kanji with the blue circular lights) is a very distinctive sign located at Shibuya Crossing. See more »
Death in Vegas' spellbinding song "Girls" perfectly sets the tone for Sofia Coppola's second feature film, the bittersweet, intelligent, mature and absolutely wonderful Lost in Translation. Trying to summarize the movie is almost pointless because the emotions the film sparks within you (in my case, at least) can't be described in words. The basic story follows Bob Harris (Bill Murray) and Charlotte (Scarlett Johansson), a washed-up, depressed actor and an emotionally confused newlywed respectively, as they accidentally meet on Park Hyatt Hotel in Tokyo. The two form an unusual bond, but a bond that is infinitely stronger than that which they share with their respective wife and husband (Charlotte's partner is a jittery photographer who doesn't pay very much attention to her; Bob's better half keeps calling him, pestering him about which colour they should choose for the carpet back home). Bob and Charlotte's relationship is not really a sexual thing so much as a matter of emotional understanding. They're both stuck in life, unsure of what to do with the rest of it and certainly not very satisfied with what they've done with it so far. It's very touching to watch, in a refreshingly non-sappy way.
The film isn't all mid-life-crisis slit-your-wrists drama, though - it is also hilarious at many points, mainly thanks to Bill Murray, who turns deadpan exasperation into an artform in a role specifically written for him. The pressure on him is high because he is basically the heart and soul of the film, but he nails the part and he's so great I was really surprised to see that he was nominated for an Oscar (since the Academy rarely hands out awards to performances that are actually *good*). Scarlett Johansson is stunning and convincing in her role and more than holds her own against Murray. Giovanni Ribisi as the aforementioned dorky husband and Anna Faris as a brain dead actress are perfectly cast and it's hard not to hate them.
Sofia Coppola's direction is amazing, both stylistically original, passionate and spellbinding. There are many gorgeous images of Tokyo on display here and she finds the right balance between these eye-catching visuals, Murray's comedy and Johansson's angst. Her style is very different from her father's and shouldn't be compared. She clearly shows that she is fully capable of having a career of her own without putting her faith in Hollywood nepotism.
Favourite scenes? Bob's "Santury time" scene is pure comic gold, and the most emotional part, in my opinion, is the karaoke scene during Bob and Charlotte's night out, when Murray sings his version of Bryan Ferry's "More than this". The scene, the way I see it, says so much about the characters and what they're going through. In fact, I'd call it the most important scene in the entire film. Then again, maybe Sofia Coppola just wanted to hear Bill's awesome singing voice (he's actually really good!).
Overall the film is just perfect. The acting, the direction, the soundtrack, plot, themes, humour, visuals... what's not to like? I know some were turned off by the supposedly "slow" pace, which I just thought helped the movie become more captivating. The central relationship needs to take its time to feel realistic. Honestly, what do you want, car chases? It's an existential drama, not Run Lola Run. Sheesh.
For relaxing times... make it Lost in Translation time.
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