A simple yet elegant film, I found I enjoyed Lost in Translation mainly because of the two main stars.
Bob Harris is a former big actor, who is now left to make commercials overseas to make money. He's still famous enough that people want his autograph, but past his prime enough that on the streets of Japan he can still be unrecognizable. Charlotte is the wife of a photographer. She's lost in his world, not really having anything to do other than wander around the hotel and the streets of Japan, trying to find something to occupy her day. Both Bob and Charlotte are searching for something, someone, to help make sense of what has happened to their lives. Even though there is a big age difference between the two, their lives are strikingly similar and that similarity is what draws them together.
I was not a big fan of Sofia Coppola's debut film, The Virgin Suicides. I had heard the hype and found the film to lack a decent story. Decent enough to hold my attention throughout. So I went into Lost in Translation not expecting much, but to my surprise, I found the movie very engrossing. The way the movie was filmed was very simple. No big camera movements, no big special effects, more just letting the actors do what they needed to do, and let the camera stay out of the way. While some people may think that's simple to do, in reality, it's not. There are a lot of times Coppola could have done something more to make a point, but instead she was content to sit back and let the story unfold in it's own way. And since it was based on her screenplay, she knew exactly how everything was supposed to fit so everything served a purpose. The shots of the city were full of life, yet gave off a slight air of despair, which fit right in with the feelings of the characters.
The best thing I've found about Coppola is that even in the movie I didn't like, she was able to coax tremendous performances out of her actors. And in this film, that certainly rings true. Bill Murray was given the role of his career here, and he made the most of it. His take on Bob Harris was one of acceptance of his new role in life, yet still wanting to search for something a little bit more. He left his wife and kids back home, something that at times saddened him, but at the same time, didn't bother him at all. Instead of calling his wife and telling her that he loved her, they would discuss carpet samples for his new office. It was the type of role where Murray could have gone overboard, but instead, following the vein of Coppola's directing style, he was laid back and let the movie come to him.
Young Scarlett Johansson, this year's IT girl, was similarly laid back as Charlotte. She's happy in her marriage, but wants do actually do something, other than sit in her hotel room in her underwear, listening to music or staring out the window. She didn't play the giggly teenager, nor did she play the seductive temptress. She was just a girl, hanging out in a bar, who ran into a guy who needed a friend. The relationship between Charlotte and Bob was a very sweet one. Bob looked at her almost like a daughter, someone he liked being with but also someone he was protective of. At no time did I ever think that their relationship was disgusting or bordering on illegal. They were friends first and foremost. Two people who needed someone at that point in their life and they found each other.
THE BOTTOM LINE
So overall, I enjoyed Lost in Translation much more than I imagined I would. It was a very elegent film, but quiet and moving. Coppola has the ability to get amazing performances from her actors and in the end, that's what made the movie as good as it was.
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