|Volume XXIX Issue 8||October 9, 2003|
Audiences become ‘Lost in Translation’ with
Blake Hinton - Reporter
Hype can be a very bad thing. When a film does not measure up to the praise it’s been getting, a decent film can become underwhelming. "Lost In Translation" has been getting some of the best reviews of the year. Most critics have been predicting a big night at the Oscars for director Sofia Coppola and the rest of the crew. Sadly, despite luminous performances by Bill Murray and Scarlett Johansson, this film simply isn’t that wonderful.
The plot of the film is threadbare at best. Murray plays Bob, an American actor who is in Japan doing a whiskey commercial. From small but cleverly written bits of e-mail and phone conversations it becomes apparent that Bob is on the outs with his wife. At the same time Charlotte, played by Johansson, is also in Japan. She is tagging along with her husband who is doing photography work. Much like Bob, it becomes apparent that Charlotte is withdrawn from her husband. Over the course of a week, Bob and Charlotte bump into each other, mostly in the hotel bar, and develop a deep and intimate romance.
Credit has to be given to the screenwriter/director Sofia Coppola for trying something most films today wouldn’t dare to do. While the film concerns the romance between Bob and Charlotte, they never sleep together or display any type of sexual relationship. Yet their relationship is one of the most intimate seen on-screen in a long time. Coppola manages to make their relationship sad and fleeting, but powerful. They know as well as the audience that nothing can happen, but Coppola can’t help but give the audience a sliver of hope.
Yet for all the daring things Coppola does, her lazy and generally boring directing drags the film down. Most of the film seems to consist of filler shots of the Japanese sky line. While this is crucial in establishing her theme of both geographical and emotional distance, Coppola overplays it. At the hour mark, despite the occasionally wise screenplay, the film meanders and becomes increasingly dull. The film is slightly redeemed by a wonderfully poignant ending.
If one has to see the film, it would be for the two amazing lead performances. While Johansson is wonderful and equally as deserving of a nomination, this is definitely Murray’s defining hour. As Murray has gotten older, there is no doubt that his comic timing has matured immensely. While he is still very funny, there seems to be a melancholy subtext to all of his jokes. Much like in the film "Rushmore," Murray uses this dynamic of tragedy/comedy to great effect. With the character of Bob Harris, Murray has hit his peak and with every facial expression and movement Murray is Harris. In the end, he creates an achingly sad and personal portrait of a man at a crossroads in his life. His facial expression at the end of the film alone should grant him an Oscar nomination.
This seems to be the movie to love this year. There is no denying it has its great qualities in the leads and the occasionally deft script. If it weren’t for Coppola’s sophomoric and lazy directing this might have been one of the best films of the year. In the end, see this film because of Johansson and Murray.
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