in Translation. Focus
Features presents a film written and directed by Sofia
Coppola. Running time: 105 minutes. Rated R (for some
sexual content and brief nudity). Starring
Murray, Scarlett Johansson, Giovanni Ribisi, Anna Faris.
a shot about halfway through Sofia Coppola's Lost in Translation,
in which Scarlett Johansson is sitting in the back seat of
a car, staring out at the Tokyo skyline. Reflected in the
window, almost superimposed over Johansson's face, are the
bright lights of Tokyo. It's a simple shot, there's nothing
particularly ingenious about it, but the first thing you think
of when you see it is just how beautiful it is.
there's plenty original and ingenious about Lost in Translation.
The previous example is just to give an idea of how beauty
permeates even the simplest frame of the film. The direction,
the writing, and the performances are all handled with such
care that it is impossible not to be affected by the beauty
of it all.
Harris (Bill Murray) is a down-and-out actor in Japan for
a week to shoot a series of whiskey commercials. Charlotte
(Johansson) is on a trip to Japan with her photographer husband
(Giovanni Ribisi), but he wants to spend more time with the
band he's photographing than with Charlotte. Eventually, the
two meet. At first, their meetings are simple, fleeting; a
smile in the elevator, short conversations at the bar. But
as time passes, and as the two become more alone and lost
in the unfamiliar surroundings, the more they come to depend
upon one another for support.
a time filled with clichéd, for-the-masses romances,
Lost in Translation is amazing in the way it handles
the relationship between Bob and Charlotte with truth and
honesty. A lesser film would have turned Bob and Charlotte
into a May-November romance. Instead, Lost in Translation
shows that, although the attraction is there, it would never
work, and it can never happen. Writer/director Sofia Coppola
cares too much about these characters to cheapen them by sending
them to bed together. And the last scene, which culminates
and ties up everything, is touching, poignant, and absolutely
true to the characters.
screenplay is brilliant. As already mentioned, the relationship
between Bob and Charlotte is handled with more truth and integrity
than any other movie of 2003. Coppola also manages to fit
in moments or humor funnier than many pure comedies. The humor
is never over-the-top, and it mainly has to do with the differences
between Japanese and American cultures. Lost in Translation's
dialogue is also wonderful, filled with insight and truth.
The characters don't talk in long, eloquent sentences, but
their statements are no less good for it.
is, without a doubt, the best work Bill Murray has ever done.
He balances drama with moments of low-key humor to deliver
a - dare I say it? - perfect performance. As a tired man,
a man in the middle of a mid-life crisis, Murray never goes
over the top. There are several moments where he could have
over-done it in the name of comedy, but he stays true to the
character - Bob Harris is a man who has to be funny for a
living, and he's tired of it; he could be funny, but
he doesn't want to. Nearly matching Murray is Scarlett Johansson,
who is quickly proving herself to be one of our most talented
young actresses. Johansson has been great in other movies
(The Horse Whisperer, Ghost World), but this is her
best work, and the performance that should get her noticed.
She captures Charlotte's sadness and confusion perfectly,
and her final moments on screen are haunting. If, come Oscar
time, these performances aren't honored with at least nominations,
I'm going to have some pretty nasty things to say about the
really miss the characters of Lost in Translation.
As the film is playing out, you feel like you're in the company
of two genuinely real people; as the credits roll, it feels
as if something is missing. Now, as I write this, nearly all
of Lost in Translation is clear in my head, and I can't
wait to see it again. At this point, Lost in Translation
is the movie to beat of 2003.
2003 Matt Noller