Written & Directed by Sofia Coppola (2003) Starring: Bill Murray, Scarlett Johansson, Giovanni Ribisi, Anna Faris
How terribly underwhelming.
Every once in awhile I hesitate to post my opinion about a movie, half because I know my tastes may change or I just need to see a movie again to really appreciate it. The other half is just that I’m a wimp and putting my opinion out there over something that’s really popular is scary.
Criticizing this movie will probably bother me endlessly, not only because I have a friend in the class we watched this in, who said this was one of his favorite films. And I only got enough courage to know that in his recitation, no one liked it.
So. The plot, as it were, is that Bob Harris (Murray), is a morose celebrity, in Japan to do a scotch commercial. While at his hotel, he meets fellow spiritually-unfulfilled American Charlotte (Johansson), who had tagged along with her husband on a business trip. While I thought the Bob Harris-centric parts were successfully written and funny, and the cinematography was gorgeous, I have some issues to address.
A) While Lost in Translation is a movie about alienation, it does it wrong. Coppola picks the most Westernized country in Asia and presents it in a very Western fashion, although in a perverted light. Everything she picks as alienating in this country, Japan got from other cultures and just made it their own. Not only that, but everyone in Japan with a decent education understands some English. There are so many other countries where feeling the culture-shock would be more appropriate, especially in Asia. In fact, Japan does have a strong tradition of isolationism and wariness around foreigners, but that is never addressed by this movie.
B) I have no appreciation for Scarlett Johansson’s character or performance in this film. Possibly biased from her “Ur Durr” performance in Ghost World, I felt like she wasn’t giving too much that a moody teenager couldn’t give. As a philosophy major from Yale, why would she expect some instant connection when she visited the Buddhist shrine? Shouldn’t she have a larger appreciation for the world’s religions at that point to know that not everything will resonate as spiritually important? Furthermore, why a Buddhist shrine, when Shintoism is the more prevalent religion in Japan? I know they’re both majority religions there, but Shintoism is Japan’s “native” religion. Shinto never even gets mentioned in this movie, unless you count that one trip to Kyoto– unrealistic in it’s own way (it would not be a logical day trip, for instance, even with using the Bullet Train). And after one visible trip outside of her hotel room before meeting Murray’s character, she decides to just lock herself up in her room? What the fuck! You’re in fucking Tokyo, THERE IS ALWAYS SOMETHING TO DO!
I’m just so glad that they focused more on Bob Harris in the latter half of the movie.
Right now, I feel like Lost in Translation could have left a more positive impression on me had I seen it when I was younger or older, or not going through my own First World Problem. In terms of cinematography, it’s gorgeous, but I can’t call this a very great film or even a very good one.