This week’s flashback takes us all the way back to that time we went to Tokyo. And by “we” I mean a washed-out American movie star doing commercials and a neglected young married woman trying to find her life’s purpose. This is Lost in Translation.
I really enjoyed that this film is about plunging the audience into a very different world, with customs and language barriers so evident that it is hilarious. The scene where the Japanese director is telling Bob Harris (Bill Murray) to be more intense, through an interpreter who is at best “paraphrasing”, is one of the funniest things I’ve seen, mostly because Murray deals with the entire situation in dry, sarcastic perfection.
Bill Murray rates this as his favourite of all of his films and, although I would argue it does not come close to Groundhog Day, I do see where he is coming from. This is Bill Murray in a very similar role to his performance as Phil Connors in Groundhog Day, except he’s less of a dick and he’s on a completely different continent.
Let’s talk about the chemistry between Murray and Johansson, which is really the key to this whole story. There is a stark contrast between the two of them and where they are in their lives. Harris is a faded star who is married but not really in love, going about the motions but not motivated or overjoyed by anything.
Charlotte (Johansson) is a young wife, recently graduated and feels more alone and empty than ever before. She has no direction in life and no purpose other than being the wife of a photographer who is too busy to spend time with her anyway.
But Charlotte and Bob find each other and connect on a level that is not really romantic. They just need each other. And the chemistry between the two actors is a testament to this.
Cinematically, the film is quite beautiful, with Sofia Coppola using Tokyo to its absolute fullest and filling the screen with unfamiliar yet intriguing visuals. The writing is brilliant too, with some of the deepest dialogue, which paved the way for the script winning the Best Original Screenplay Academy Award in 2004.
But in all honesty, Coppola, you had me at that close up of Scarlett Johannson’s butt as she’s wearing see-through underwear. And that was the very first scene. Love your work.
For those who haven’t seen the film, here is the trailer. Enjoy!