Wow. I came out of the Lost In Translation screening
wanting to go right back in and see it again. It was that
good, that there was the desire to watch more closely, to
pick up on anything I might have missed and to savor the morsels
I found so tasty the first go-round.
With so many adulatory reviews of Lost In Translation,
I hate to join the throng. I really fear creating an expectation
no actual movie could possibly meet, but I have to say that
this is one of the best things I’ve ever seen that made me
feel good. Usually the truly great ones have that harrowing
juxtaposition of fantastic film and emotional devastation
(Requiem For A Dream, anyone?).
Bill Murray is Bob Harris (What a generic white-boy
name!), a middle-aged movie star gone slightly to seed, in
Japan to make a commercial for Suntory, a Japanese liquor
company. Scarlett Johansson is Charlotte, a very young
newlywed tagging along on her photographer-husband’s glam
photo shoot. Neither Charlotte nor Bob have what could properly
be called an occupation, so time hangs heavy on their hands.
After running into each other a few times at their high-rise
hotel—and I give thanks that these meetings were not particularly
cute—they decide to waste time together, fellow picaresques
in Tokyo. Some of us, hereafter, when we think falling in
love, will yearn not for the backdrop of an April in Paris,
but an autumn in Tokyo.
I’m taking off half a star for the fact that Charlotte isn’t
particularly compelling outside of her obvious youthful attractions.
It’s a bit of a mystery what makes Bill Murray fall for her,
other than that she’s there, she’s intelligent, and she’s
a new audience for his schtick. His kung fu is the best, though;
it’s very clear what’s so appealing about Bob. I mean who
can’t appear in an ultra-charming light to someone
who hasn’t heard our stories before? Bob’s later actions show
that, on this jaunt away from the wife and kids he is in fact
predisposed to be attracted, however temporarily, to whomever
is there. Interestingly, the story engages our sympathies
with Charlotte at this point, so that we feel worse about
the possibility that he would betray Charlotte than we do
about the possibility of him betraying his wife, Lydia.
There are no bells, no soft focus, no swelling violins, none
of the standard accoutrements of the romantic comedy. Instead,
we get a fairly bald picture of what other people falling
in love. And it turns out that, properly done, love in bloom
is pleasing from the outside looking in without being tarted
But it’s the lead actors that make Lost In Translation
so particularly pleasing. Murray is about the funniest guy
around, a master of the deadpan in some scenes and a male
reincarnation of Lucille Ball in others, and Johansson
just gets better and better. Still, there are two posters,
one with Johansson and one with Murray, but there’s never
any doubt whose show this is. The story is enjoyable, but
it’s the sort of “and then they… and then she… and then he…
and next they…” that it would be churlish to describe. Recounting
their adventures wouldn’t be a spoiler exactly, but the show
really rides on Murray’s and Johansson’s perfect reactions
to whatever unfolds. It all unfolds in front of an excellent
soundtrack and excellent music integration into the storyline.
Not to be missed.