There are a few things that are quite amusing about Lost in Translation. When it came out in 2003, it slowly became a hit among critics and established a cult following. At first it's hard to see just what the big deal is. It's a grand movie but it's a very slow paced film, to the point that it seems to really turn some off. Along those lines others may find it a bit too talkative for their taste. It's a cult classic, however. And that means you'll either really like it or really hate it. It's a very different, very original film in and of itself.
Lost in Translation was written and directed by Sofia Coppola. Most people know her from directing The Virgin Suicides (among other things). There's something quite unique and interesting about what she does here. In some ways it’s quite different from what you'd expect from, well, any film.
In particular, Lost in Translation focuses on two particular characters. The first is Charlotte, played by Scarlet Johanson. She's the young wife of a celebrity photographer who happens to be in Japan for a photo shoot. The second character is Bob Harris, a middle aged man who is in Japan to shoot a commercial for Suntory Whiskey. At one point the two meet in a bar, and between them an unusual friendship occurs. Together the two explore Japan and have a fun adventure. But we also discover the difference between the two and the similarities. Bob Harris is a middle-aged man, who has been married for a long time, but has a disconnect with his wife. Charlotte is newly married but has a disconnect with her husband. It is because of this similarity that the two become friends. There's a sort of irony about it too. If Bob Harris is in a midlife crisis then what kind of crisis is Charlotte in, exactly?
As you might expect, it blossoms into something so much more than friendship. Yet in all instances, the film doesn't take things too far. This is a movie that's mostly about friendship and about two characters who are rather confused in Japan. There are huge thematic plays on getting lost. Our characters experience loneliness and alienation but also experience companionship in getting lost together. The film probably takes place in Japan partially for this reason. It's an unfamiliar setting to both characters, and the two don't exactly understand the language. So not only do they feel disconnected from their respective spouses, but they're also in a country they both hardly understand at all. They're both lost in several ways. At the center, however, is mostly this friendship between the two characters. So no, you won't see anything explicit... or even that romantic for that matter. They both do eventually have something deeper, and there is romantic tension, but through it all it's mostly about companionship. That's not to say there are no sweet moments or moments that aren't exclusively human. There are, on both ends. This is particularly what some may not exactly enjoy about Lost in Translation. Aside from the city of Japan there's not a whole lot that's visually stimulating about Lost in Translation. In fact, I've known people who are completely bored with the film. This is straight drama, but it's also because the movie is very slow paced. It's only an hour and forty five minutes, but it can feel a little lengthy. The pace is actually quite understandable at least, but it's definitely not going to suit everyone. In fact, it may even take more than one viewing to understand the point of the film and its significance. The first time viewing sometimes it just doesn't come across. You may have to dig. And dig deep. But in the end the film does stand tall in many ways.
If anything, however, the pacing really does sink in when you realize we go through many drawn out scenes, some of which don't really have much of any dialog at all. Some of these moments come off as though they aren't needed, and indeed, some of them aren't. But in some ways it's needed to be sure to enforce some of its themes. If we're watching some of these scenes and feeling awkward like some of the characters are in this film, then we're being absorbed into the theme of being lost ourselves.
Bill Murray is often cited as doing some of the best acting he's ever done here. This is hard to understand if you don't know Bill Murray's past. For Murray the tone of the performance is very different from what he's actually done. It's much more toned down. As such it's a very different style for Murray. It's amusing to watch. It's more amusing if you're a Bill Murray fan. Other actors and actresses do a good job, but none do quite as well as Murray does here.
If there was any one complaint about this film, it would be that it's been branded a comedy. If that's so, I must’ve missed it. It's a fantastic film, but funny isn't one of the words I'd use to describe the film. In fact, as I watched I might've chuckled at one or two moments, but if I did... I can't rightfully remember at which moments I did so. I remember the film for other reasons, none of which has to do with its so called "comedic" nature. There were some obvious jokes that I caught wind of, but I hardly found them funny. So Lost in Translation is good, but it's memorable for being a neat observation of human nature and being as thematically ambitious as it is.
The movie isn't for everyone, though. Not everyone likes that subtle approach. It's biggest, most important moment is quite a big one. It comes at the very end. I won't spoil it for those who haven't seen it. But it's a highly emotional moment that fits into the film as a whole. What I'm getting at is that if you're the type who goes for explosions and the like... Lost in Translation will have you bored stiff. More than that, it just has this vibe that it's something different. It really is a movie in a league of its own. As a result it not only takes multiple viewings to really grasp, but a lot of patience as well. This isn't for everyone. Sofia Coppola seems quite aware of this. Because of its approach and its style some may find it just all out boring. That doesn't separate it from being interesting and doing all these things well. It's a good story overall, it just isn't all that flashy.
If you can muster it, and you can settle for a little through provocation and themes, then Lost in Translation will provide that for you and more. This is what makes the film amusing as a whole, and why it manages to stand tall for what it is. A lot of people watch Lost in Translation and come out not exactly knowing what it was they were supposed to get from it... or even what it was about. As I said, it might take multiple views but its essence does come out.