Lost in Translation review by Tom Blain
Wonderful film about lost souls
Former movie star Bob Harris (Bill Murray) is in Tokyo shooting a commercial for a Japanese whiskey. He spends his spare time in the hotel bar and drinking that same whiskey, wallowing in a his floundering-career-induced mid-life crisis. Charlotte is in the same Tokyo hotel with her young photographer husband going through a liberal arts induced post-college crisis. She was smart enough at Yale to figure out life's tough questions with her fancy philosophy degree. However, figuring out her own life and what to do with it has become trickier. With her husband gone most hours of the day, she has a lot of time to spend in the hotel thinking about it.
In any American city, Bob and Charlotte would never even notice each other. But seeing as they have nothing in common with anyone in Tokyo, language or lifestyle, they come together out of necessity. Tokyo acts as this vacuous world where only they understand each other. Each night they go out and explore the city together and each night their friendship grows. Even a routine visit to the hospital turns into comedy as they act without restraint in the strange foreign land. Differences that were obvious before quickly begin to disolve. Soon the similarities begin to show as they talk more and more about their depression, insomnia, and uncertain lives.
Much of the comedy relies on the quirky nature of the Japanese. The 6 foot plus, deadpan Bill Murray is the perfect subject to observe in this universe. The most exceptional scene in the movie comes near the beginning when he is sent a hooker by some business associates. Murray's confusion and lack of desire leads to irriitation as he fails to understand what "lip my stocking" means. Those kinky Japanese. He also appears as the guest on a talk show hosted by the Japanese Johnny Carson. The show is more comparable to a live Nickelodeon cartoon mixed with a bad acid trip. Murray is confused but goes along with it.
Bill Murray is at his best in his character in Lost in Translation. Over the years he has taken roles to challenge himself, most notably Rushmore. He still holds true to his comic backgrounds, but his characters are deeper than clowns we are used to seeing him play. His age shows, wrinkles are developing, but he puts on probably his most versatile performance. Scarlett Johansson is equally good in the prescence of Murray. She plays a real person; nothing over-the-top and not a barbie doll. It seems simple enough, but how many times does Hollywood screw that up? Her "what do I do now?" confusion is genuine and something that I personally can associate with.
The comedy of the Japanese way of life is just the filler for a deeper film about friendship. Bob and Charlotte develop a close friendship within the span of just a few days but to those in the audience it feels like longer. By the end of the movie, you really want to see the two of them come together, even if you know it is not likely. I won't give away the ending, but it's sweet and touching, and leaves you with a warm fuzzy whether you want one or not.
So far, for my money, this is THE movie to see this year. Its a great mix of comedy, character, and beautiful eye-candy. The story, while not completely original, is not a boring Hollywood re-tread. Its the kind of inspired real film-making you would expect from American Zoetrope pictures and the Copolla family. See it while it's still in theatres.
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