Lost in Translation


Rated: R
Stars:   Bill Murray, Scarlett Johansson, Giovanni Ribisi, Anna Faris, Akiko Takeshita, Catherine Lambert
Director/Screenwriter:  Sofia Coppola

The second feature film from writer-director Sofia Coppola is a sweet movie that owes most of its charm to the insightful talents of co-stars Bill Murray and Scarlett Johansson despite a plot that’s a tad undercooked.

The tale is set in Tokyo, where two Americans, a fading movie star (Bill Murray as Bob Harris) is filming an ad for Suntory whiskey and a young married woman (Scarlett Johansson as Charlotte), confused about what she wants to do in life, develop an interesting relationship after meeting in a hotel bar. With roughly a thirty year difference in age, the pleasant surprise is that it’s not a sexual relationship but one based on emotional need and happenstance.

Charlotte’s husband John (Giovanni Ribisi) is a celebrity photographer, caught up in his own prestige. He leaves her to go off for an out-of-town shoot and Charlotte is left alone to contemplate the sadness and boredom of her life. Both she and Bob, who himself is saddened by what his life has become, suffer from jet lag and insomnia and troll their hotel and the city in search of distraction. After several false starts, they finally discover each other in the hotel bar, which leads to a few parties, many dining occasions and a gentle and bittersweet friendship.

Aside from poking fun at the expense of the Japanese in a tiresome take on their inability to say the letter “L”, Coppola’s script is lightweight. Rather than further developing her characters, she spends an inordinate amount of time, showing Tokyo’s nightlife in a most cursory manner and there are many such shots. The movie is slow in spots because of it while we’re really hoping for a much deeper look at Bob and Charlotte.

Lotta says: A pleasant little film, nonetheless.

September 2003 Release