Japan has never looked so boring.
The film revolves around an aging actor named Bob Harris (Bill Murray) and a recent college graduate named Charlotte (Scarlett Johansson) who develop a unique closeness after a chance meeting in a grand Tokyo hotel.
I remember the first time that I ever watched it, and I didn’t get it. Maybe I was too young (8th grade) or maybe I was just way too sleepy, either way, I didn’t love it as much as so many other people have said over the years. About 4 years later though, I loved it! Funny what time can do for certain people, especially a movie geek like me.
Writer/director Sofia Coppola definitely brings a lot to the table here and deserved the Oscar she got that year. Coppola adds so much attention to detail in just about every scene where it’ll either be one of these characters just staring off into space, but the song in the background or lighting fit the mood perfectly. She focuses on all of this detail and probably the best decision for this film that she made was actually putting it in Japan, considering it seems like the craziest place ever. Yeah, Coppola pokes a lot of jokes at just how goofy and crazy Japanese culture can be, as well as a lot of the surroundings, but she also shows this country as a haven for people to be free with themselves and paint it as this beautiful place to be, even underneath all of the sadness of these American people. Never been to Japan, and I don’t know when or if I ever will, but if I do go, I’ll definitely use this flick as my travel guide for all of the sights to see.
However, it’s Sofia’s attention to the writing that really took over me with this flick. So much of the film here consists of these characters holding back, not saying anything, and just letting a lot of the silence take over each and every single one of their scenes, which may be too subtle for some people but it’s also the best quality of her script. There are plenty of moments that are just dedicated to these characters not saying anything at all, but whenever they do speak, they give off some real and raw emotional dialogue that just feels natural, as if you almost couldn’t have written a lot of this stuff. It also shows a lot about these characters and a lot of human truths as it talks a lot about our needs and desires in our lives, and the feeling of needing to be connected with other people out there in the world. It’s a theme that many other flicks tend to shy away from, but this is one that Sofia hits head-on, even if she doesn’t have her characters practically spell it out for you. Check can’t act for shit, but she sure as hell can write and direct, and that’s all that matters to me.
Everything here is pretty great and works very, very well except for the fact that sometimes this pace does have the occasional lull here and there. Actually, the film picks up a lot of steam somewhere in the middle part of it and then it just starts to slow down and it sucks all of the life out of itself. However, it’s not that big of a complaint considering it happens maybe once or twice here, and the rest of it just somehow took my mind away from it.
The real reason this film works as well as it does is mainly because of Bill Murray, who probably gives his best performance ever as Bob Harris. Murray is a guy we all know who can be funny and outrageous, but he’s also an actor that can do a lot by just being subtle and not even speaking at all, just staring into space. Of course he’s hilarious here and it’s just a whole bunch of fun to watch as Bill Murray goes around this film, making just about every single person here laugh and not even make it seem like he’s even remotely trying. Actually, that’s whats so amazing about this performance here is that he doesn’t even feel like he’s saying lines, everything is just coming off so naturally and it fits so damn well with Coppola’s script. Sometimes I think they didn’t even tell Murray that there was a film crew following him at all times during the filming and they just show a whole bunch of footage of him walking around and interacting with all of these random people as if he wasn’t even in a soon-to-be Oscar nominee.
It sucks that he didn’t win for this flick either because even though Bob Harris is a very complicated, and messed up dude, he has a good heart and much of that credit has to go to Murray and the emotional depth he is able to fall towards. There are definitely plenty of scenes where you see Murray as the sad dude but he doesn’t over-play it and make it seem like he’s trying, because once again, he’s playing it naturally and that’s what I love so much about Murray in just about every flick he does, especially here. Hopefully he’ll get his Oscar some day because I know he’s getting closer and closer dammit!
As great as Murray is though, he doesn’t run away with this film and never return. In fact, Scarlett Johansson is also pretty damn good as his new friend, another sad character named Charlotte. Johansson was so young during the filming of this flick (17 I think) and she’s pretty much asked to play a more mature character and gives off an amazing performance that may not be as effortless as Murray, but still has enough to it that makes you realize she has the chops to pull off a leading role. Her character is sad and bored, but is also a very sweet, nice, and lovely lady that I can definitely see hanging around Bill Murray in real life. May have never actually happened but by the way these two were hanging out and getting along here, I could definitely something was going on.
Consensus: Lost in Translation is a very subtle film, but is also one that will touch you and make you laugh with its natural performances from Johansson and Murray, pitch-perfect direction from Coppola that makes me want to venture out to Japan, and a screenplay that talks about many things, yet focuses on a friendship between two people that could never have happened anywhere else, had they both had not been bored out of their minds in Japan. Yet, how much fun they did actually have together.
PS: It’s my birthday today, so I hope you like this post extra more now!