Movie #168 Lost in Translation
(2003, US, d. Sofia Coppola)
Lost in Translation is a movie about the friendships we are able to form with the people who know the least about us. It’s about the seemingly perfect and honest relationship someone can have with a complete stranger. The strangers of course are Charlotte and Bob Harris. Both are from different worlds and different struggles yet both, through sheer coincidence or fate, have checked into the same hotel in Tokyo. Bob Harris (played by Bill Murray) is a Hollywood movie star shooting a whiskey commercial (“for relaxing times, make it Suntory times”) and who is just about as lost as his new friend Charlotte, a young new wife to a busy photographer. Both are lost in the physical and the emotional sense. Harris’ own relationship with his wife has become one of a forced happiness. Charlotte, on the other hand, blurts out to a friend over the phone for no apparent reason that she doesn’t “know who she married”. Cue their meeting. As the two strike an unconventional and unformulaic friendship through the streets of Japan, they begin to share their own bits of wisdom about the world, aid in each other’s personal discoveries, and most of all find a bit of comfort in a place that screamed loneliness to each of them. To the casual viewer, their sudden friendship may seem implausible or at worst, random. But Coppola is not interested in methodical structure but the true spark that exists with people – not sexual but emotional. In fact, one of the film’s smartest moves was ridding itself of any sexual relief that could have occurred between the two. She instead takes the harder journey – creating an emotional climax between two characters who cannot possibly have sex. Bill Murray here is fantastic, creating a persona that for once is not Bill Murray. Where he could have easily made the crowd roar with laughter by being himself, Murray instead is silent – allowing Bob Harris to create himself – and completely deserving of his Oscar nomination. Johansson, as well, is in a once-in-a-lifetime role in which her sexuality is overshadowed by her naivety and questions about the world. For the second time in a row, Coppola has managed to create a consistent tone here: this time a little more mellow. As Charlotte and Harris begin to have fun, the viewers are taken on a similar journey, through the visual tasting of Coppola and her sublime musical selection. Nominated for Best Picture and Best Director and winner of Best Original Screenplay, Lost in Translation is not a movie for everyone – but it is a movie for those with an open mind.