Projections - Movie Reviews

Lost in Translation

A glowing, bustling neon Tokyo is the chief setting of Sofia Coppola's funny, surprisingly tender Lost in Translation with a motif of personal and cultural detachment.

The leads played by Bill Murray and Scarlett Johansson are obviously distant in age, but not in their loneliness and lack of sleep.  He's a tough-skinned Hollywood actor, Bob Harris, in the far east metropolis filming a whiskey ad and she's Charlotte, a woman in an un-fulfilling marriage to her photographer husband John (Giovanni Ribsi) on assignment in the same vicinity.

Coppola's multi-tasking of directing and writing pays off again, similar to her lyrical, melancholic debut, The Virgin Suicides.  She senses through Johansson's Charlotte a disaffecting aura from no personal goals from a Yale philosophy degree or satisfaction from her husband's career.  Similarly, Murray's Harris is jaded from all of the travel and the effect on a withering marriage.  Yet, Bob's sense of humor helps drown out the sorrow of a mid-life crisis.

Moving from the Park Hyatt Tokyo throughout the city after spending some time late at night in a bar, the lensing sparked by high-speed film offers a tint of romance that Bob and Charlotte take on in a Far East variation on "After House."

The designing of the hedonism that the unlikely pair sample, from homes to strip bars and karaoke clubs express the confusion in how they look at the contemporary city strongly influenced by American mores.  Coppola works effectively with her actors who also include Anna Faris (The Hot Chick) as a young actress caught up in the kind of social and professional glitz that leaves our protagonists aloof.

Some of the wittier, weird moments relate to the film's title, whether on a set, or in a temple.  But, the audience is put in the same dislocation as Bob and Charlotte as many surreal, slick Eastern pop tunes are heard on the soundtrack. Lost in Translation rises to the challenge of ills from alienation and a sense of purpose with a young, rapidly maturing Johansson, and especially Murray's mining of humor from within and outwardly that makes watching a new Tokyo along with an old Japan, an offbeat, but rewarding experience.

Lost in Translation

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