Day 18: Lost in Translation

Two Americans.

Both lonely.

Who just happen to meet at a hotel in a foreign country.

What happens next? If you watch a lot of typical Hollywood films, then you would guess that these two Americans had a steamy affair while they were away from their spouses, struggling with insomnia, and neither wanting to be alone.

Sofia Coppola‘s “Lost in Translation” is not a typical Hollywood film. Written and directed by Sofia, daughter of famed film director Francis Ford Coppola (The Godfather), was, impressively, shot entirely in JapanBill Murray portrays Bob Harris, an American has-been actor in Tokyo, for a $2 million contract to promote Suntory Whiskey. Scarlett Johannson’s character, Charlotte, is an American Ivy League graduate who is traveling with her husband of two years for his work.

“The more you know who you are and what you want, the less you let things upset you.”  – Bob, played by Bill Murray, “Lost in Translation”

Charlotte is unhappy in her marriage. She and her husband John (Giovanni Ribisi) are a faithful couple, yet it is not as she expected it to be, the marriage that is. John is away most of the time, leaving her alone at the hotel to keep herself busy. She explores Tokyo but is mostly trying to find ways to deal with her chronic insomnia. She is still finding her place in the world. Her husband and her friends do not understand.

Bob is painfully lonely. He has been married for twenty-five years, and his wife is sending him carpet samples for their remodel project. He loves his kids and his wife, but after all these years, it is just “different.” The character of Bob is incredibly choreographed: he is lonely, that is obvious, but hilarious at the same time. Bill Murray’s performance makes him appear as if he is “standing taller, perched on Bob’s courtliness.” His  “acting is surely one of the most exquisitely controlled performances in recent movies. Without it, the film could be unwatchable. With it, I can’t take my eyes away.”

They eat together. They have fun together. They talk about their loneliness together. They explore and try new restaurants together. They were friends when they had no one else. That is it.

We keep waiting for something to happen in the film, yet, nothing did. I believe it is because it is the same thing with loneliness: you keep waiting for something to happen, yet it never does. Everything you try to say when you are lonely just gets “lost in translation.” Charlotte’s husband could not understand how she felt he was in the middle of his successful career. Bob’s wife did not understand, nor did his agent.

But they had each other to share in their loneliness. At least for a little while. 

I love the sadness, and the humor, and the bond they share. They were friends. They learned they were both stuck in their current lives, and they needed to find a way to get unstuck and enjoy living again. Loneliness does not have an age limit. Charlotte was young and had the whole world before her. Bob looked old, and he felt old. You could tell in his eyes.

The film shows beautiful views of Mount Fuji and beautiful scenes of the city of Tokyo, which I believe add to the feeling of loneliness. Charlotte visits several historical locations and temples. The Park Hyatt Tokyo is the hotel where the majority of the scenes are filmed. Here is a complete list of filming locations. Rotten Tomatoes gives it a critic’s score of 95% and an audience score of 85%. 

Conclusion: I agree with The New York Times, “The important point is that there’s a lot up there on the screen, plenty to get lost in.” 

I did. See for yourself.

P.S. I have wondered lately if I should include in my reviews various aspects of the rating. If you believe I should comment below. For now, all I will say is there is sex in this film, so if you have not told your children where they came from, do not let them watch it with you.

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2 thoughts on “Day 18: Lost in Translation

  1. So….this was not a favorite of mine. It’s hard to watch a film about loneliness. There seemed, to me, to be no point to this movie. Yes, they were both lonely insomniacs but so what? I mean what was the point? I thought it was slow and had a hard time watching the whole thing. Yes there were some poignant moments and some beautiful scenery, but this movie just didn’t do anything for me. I think I got lost in translation.


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