Lost In Translation
Written and directed by Sofia Coppola
Run time: 102 minutes
Distribution: Focus Features
Rating: R, for sexuality (and some nudity)
Being caught in a location that is drastically different from your own can be an experience that is all parts surreal, and even a little bit frightening.
It's akin to a fish out of water tale: you're far from home, you know next to nobody, and nothing is the same to you.
The feeling of being alone in the world is a jarring and unsettling one, and you can ask anyone who's felt that way before, and chances are that you will get the same answer: it doesn't feel good. Sometimes, all you need is somebody who's in the same boat as you. Sometimes, all you need is a friend.
Naturally, this is the basis of Lost In Translation: two lonely people stuck in a place that is very strange and very different from the land they've come to know. This area just happens to be a place of great innovation and a sleek, dream-like aesthetic, to which the movie doesn't hesitate to take advantage of, Japan.
The story opens with Bob Harris (Bill Murray), a middle-aged man and former actor, being driven into the bustling and whimsical nightlife of Tokyo. He is commissioned to take part in a series of whiskey ads for the Suntory Whiskey company, which requires him to spend his week in this distant land. Almost immediately, he is met with a wave of invitation by the Japanese producers, relishing in his arrival and excitedly lavishing him with gifts. Even with this adoration, he isn't happy.
Bob is very far from home, very far from his wife, very far from his children, Adam and Zoe, and stuck in a world that is so very mesmerizing, yet all too lonely. He doesn't know what he's doing here in this strange place.
He's completely lost.
The audience is then introduced to to Charlotte (Scarlett Johansson), as a newlywed who has followed her photographer husband as he is stuck with the job of photographing a rock & roll band for the week. Charlotte feels neglected, as her husband is always working, and she is left to wander the land in her spare time. Bob, old enough to be Charlotte's father, and Charlotte, recently married to a man who feels like a total stranger, form a bond that will define the entire trip as they know it, and will cease to exist when it's over. They both know this, and so does the viewer.
I cannot begin to describe how much I would like to see Bill Murray involved in more dramatic roles like this. The way he and Scarlett Johansson, two lonely people in a distant world, work off each other is simply sublime.
Though, it isn't really a love story in the conventional term. Sure, there is a strong feeling of affection by both of the parties, but it goes much deeper than "I want to be with you."
Love is acknowledging the flaws of another and accepting them for it, for who they are, and you never get the feeling that Lost In Translation is saying one thing and doing another. In other words, it doesn't deliver a romantic tale in which both of the characters fall madly in love and the real world just sits back and allows them to have their moment with no repercussions. It embraces it's character's flaws. Every hint of jealousy, depression, and unfaithfulness is brought to light in one way or another, and the relationships are all the more interesting because of it.
You'll probably notice atop that mountain of text and commas that I had stated that Japan was a very dream-like environment. I had sat down to read that sentence again and again, struggling to find an adjective that is better suited in it's place. I could not.
The Land of the Rising Sun is shot in a captivating and versatile way, and it almost seems to change with the tone of the story. When it's a lighthearted, carefree scene, you can expect a lot of lights and colors to be flashing across the screen, waiting to catch your eye. On the other end of the spectrum, solemn and dramatic scenes are shot with a monochromatic color palette in mind. Suffice to say, the land itself is the biggest character of the story, and it is shot terrifically.
"Can you keep a secret? I'm trying to organize a prison break. I'm looking for, like, an accomplice. We have to first get out of this bar, then the hotel, then the city, and then the country. Are you in or you out?"
"I'm in. I'll go pack my stuff."
"I hope that you've had enough to drink. It's going to take courage."
Recommendation: Watch. This is a beautiful film from beginning to end, with a phenomenal cast of characters and a firm understanding of what makes great cinematography. If you're lonely (and Lord knows I am) this may be just what the doctor ordered.
Lost In Translation is a trip, and I don't regret embarking upon it for one second.
Hazy would like to admit that he might have cried during this movie, but it was totally because something was in his eye. Yeah.. let's go with that.