Lost in Translation (2003) starring Bill Murray, Scarlett Johansson, Giovanni Ribisi, Anna Faris directed by Sofia Coppola Movie Review

Lost in Translation (2003)   4/54/54/54/54/5

Bill Murray as Bob Harris in Lost in Translation

Lost in Life & Lost in Tokyo

The first time I watched "Lost in Translation" I felt bored and disappointed, even cheated because with it starring Bill Murray I expected something different and I am sure I'm not alone in those feelings. But that was the first time and having revisited "Lost in Translation" knowing that whilst amusing this is a very different sort of movie, a movie which is about characters rather than comedy I have to say it's a movie which borders on the exceptional. Sofia Coppola has crafted a movie which is clever on so many levels, touching, amusing and even a little heart breaking, it's not what you expect, there are no real major moments of set piece comedy but it still makes you smile. And whilst it is artsy, with long shots of Scarlett Johansson staring out of her hotel room can be seen as boring they also speak volumes about the character, her feelings of being lost, unsure of who she is anymore. As such "Lost in Translation" is a good movie, it is better than good but to appreciate it you have to open up your mind to something different, something you don't expect from Bill Murray and something which is about characters and feelings rather than drama and comedy.

With his career past it's best American actor Bob Harris (Bill Murray - Charlie's Angels) finds himself in the bright lights of Tokyo shooting commercials whilst his marriage back in the States has become functionary rather than loving. Newly married Charlotte (Scarlett Johansson - The Prestige) is also in Tokyo feeling like she has no purpose in life whilst her husband goes out to work every day. Whilst very different Bob and Charlotte become friends, supporting each other as they deal with what their lives are going though whilst also enjoying the craziness and cultural differences of Japan.

Scarlett Johansson as Charlotte in Lost in Translation

So as already mentioned "Lost in Translation" is not for those who are expecting a very mainstream comedy starring Bill Murray. This story is about two characters and how whilst strangers become important to each other as they are both struggling with their lives whilst stuck in Tokyo. It's very different and is all about how through a gentle introduction they become friends, supporting each other as they feel not only lost in Tokyo but lost in life. It's an ambiguous relationship, there is a closeness but with both being married it's not physical.

To be honest it's very hard to really describe what happens in "Lost in Translation" because not a lot happens other than Bob and Charlotte ending up becoming friends but then at the same time there is so much character development that a lot does happen. It's because of this that "Lost in Translation" is a movie where you need to open up your mind to a different experience, a movie not about a story or drama or set piece comedy but one which looks at how two strangers become important to each other.

What is so impressive is how much meaning Sofia Coppola delivers not by what Bob and Charlotte do or say but by how a scene is constructed. For example when Bob and Charlotte leave the safety of the hotel to explore the city we do not get any subtitles so that we can understand what the Japanese locals are saying we are as confused as they are. The same can be said of the artsy looking scenes of Charlotte mooching around her hotel room, not bothering to get dressed and staring longingly out of her window, it's all about not having a purpose, nothing to do and not knowing who you are. It's this and so much more which makes "Lost in Translation" a clever movie which makes you feel what Bob and Charlotte are feeling without the need to tell us, it allows us to connect with their feelings but only if you open up your mind to this deeper level.

Now I did say that "Lost in Translation" is not the sort of mainstream comedy you expect from Bill Murray yet his comic talents are still used perfectly. There is that dry wit which comes across but other than the shooting of the adverts there are no set pieces, instead we are watching Bob an actor who has this dry sense of humour whose sarcastic comments express his inner feelings. But Bill Murray's performance is more than just comedy, his demeanour speaks of a man who is wondering why, wondering about his marriage and career and again on a deeper level we get who Bob is, we recognize that he is at a crossroads in his life. The same can be said of Scarlett Johansson as Charlotte because it's the way she looks, that plain Jane look with minimal make up which speaks of what her character is going through that loss of purpose in life. And together Murray and Johansson bring out something uniquely special, that feeling of friendship which is both support but also something deeper something almost along the lines of kindred spirits.

What this all boils down to is that "Lost in Translation" is a very different movie and whilst it is an entertaining movie to watch it is more about how it makes you feel. It's certainly not a mainstream movie and not what you would expect from Bill Murray with a strong artsy influence but get rid of expectations and open your mind to the feelings of the characters and it is a movie which connects with you on a deeper level.