Lost In Translation


Directed by: Sofia Coppola
Written by:Sofia Coppola
Starring: Scarlett Johansson, Bill Murray, Anna Faris, Giovanni Ribisi
Released: December 26, 2003
Grade: A

Bob Harris (Murray) has watched his life fade away in front of him.  Twenty years ago, he was a fresh Hollywood star married to a woman he loved.  Now, he is a forlorn, tired figure who feels no enthusiasm and exudes no passion.  Bob is in Japan where he is being paid $2m to advertise a brand of scotch whiskey.  This is as good as it’s going to get for him.  He’d love to resurrect his screen career or appear in a Broadway show but to everyone back home, he’s washed up.

His relationship with his wife has followed the same path.  Bob is ensnared in a marriage where they stay together not by love but routine.  His wife’s biggest concern right now is finding the right shade of red to carpet Bob’s study.  She even sends a Fed-Ex box full of samples to his hotel in Tokyo, complete with her recommendations, to hasten his decision.

Charlotte (Johansson) is an intelligent young woman who sees no life in front of her.  She has just graduated from Yale with a degree in psychology but doesn’t know how it will serve her.  She’s tried writing but hates the stuff she writes.  She’s tried photography but knows she’s a petty amateur.

Charlotte’s trip to Japan has turned into little more than a sight-seeing expedition.  Her husband, John (Ribisi), is in Tokyo on business and she tagged along in the hope of rekindling their own waning marriage.  Instead, he’s never at the hotel and Charlotte escapes the depression of the hotel room by acting the tourist around town.

Bob and Charlotte don’t know what they are looking for by they will soon find it in each other.  They bump into each other at the hotel’s bar and their unspoken similarities help form a much needed friendship.  Soon, they are spending every moment possible together and their personal problems are quickly being forgotten.  They both know their stay in Tokyo is short but this brief, fleeting moment of pleasure reminds them of a long lost feeling – happiness.

Lost In Translation is the second feature film of female director Sofia Coppola who made The Virgin Suicides in 1999.  On paper she is a rookie but when you look at the beautiful control with which she commands her camera, you’ll see she is the equal of her father, Francis Ford Coppola (director of The Godfather trilogy).  Sofia has not chosen the film’s setting by accident and produces some wonderful panoramic shots of the colourful city.  I also loved the way the cinematography tended to focus heavily on each character’s eyes.  They say you can tell a lot by one’s eye movement and I particularly like Sofia’s style in letting the body movements do most of talking.  A fine example is a scene the two share together on Bob’s bed.

I couldn’t ask for two more well chosen cast members than Bill Murray and Scarlett Johansson.  I have adored Murray’s comedic antics since I was a kid in films like Ghostbusters, Caddyshack and Groundhog Day.  Only now though is he finding critical acclaim with quirkier, more meaningful comedies such as this and 1998’s Rushmore.  If any actor is overdue for an Oscar nomination it is Murray and his unwaveringly lethargic performance as Bob Harris deserves to break the drought.  Johansson, on the other hand, is a rising starlet who you may recall from The Horse Whisperer and the brilliant Ghost World.  She is simply gorgeous in this film and her distinctively raspy voice will define her own performances in years to come.

Lost In Translation is a touching mixture of romance, drama and comedy set against the backdrop of a truly unique culture.  Undoubtedly, something for everyone.