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Lost in Translation

2003 comedy-drama film

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Surprisingly Excellent!

  • Dec 10, 2006
  • by
Pros: Intelligent, well-written, smartly acted and directed.

Cons: A little slow at times.

The Bottom Line: Lost in Translation is a smart movie that begs the viewer to pay attention to the subtle.

Plot Details: This opinion reveals minor details about the movie''s plot.

Loneliness is one of the most palpable of all human emotions. It can be a dull ache beating in the center of your heart, a restlessness in the pit of your soul; an overwhelming desire to touch and be touched by another human being; to feel as though you belong to the human race. Loneliness and chance friendship is at the nexus of newly anointed writer/director Sophia Coppola’s (The Virgin Suicides, 2000) Lost in Translation (2004).

I was prepared to hate this movie despite all of the positive press, main because I have little love or regard for Bill Murray, but I surprised myself by thoroughly enjoying and even empathizing with the movie. It could be because I know what it feels like to be living in a land not your own. It’s at times like these when the loneliness feels like it will eat you alive, and you’ll do anything to beat back the beat, to make a connection however tenuous and fleeting. And so I came out of the other side of Lost in Translation with a smile on my lips and warm glow in my reviewer’s heart.

Lost in Translation takes place in Tokyo Japan, and follows two principle characters: Charlotte portrayed by Scarlett Johansson (The Girl With the Pearl Earring, Match Point, The Prestige) who is married to John portrayed by Giovanni Ribisi (Saving Private Ryan, Gone in Sixty Seconds, Flight of the Phoenix) a photographer on assignment, and; Bob portrayed by Bill Murray (Caddyshack, Tootsie, Ghost Busters), as struggling actor in country to shoot a bourbon commercial for a nice sum of money.

Neither Charlotte nor Bob (such a benign name) can sleep at night and both end up in the bar of the Park Hyatt Tokyo where they both were staying, looking for a place to be. Their relationship starts out innocent enough—Charlotte is after all young enough to be Bob’s daughter—and it quickly takes on a sweet intimacy and easy platonic association that could have only happened in a place alien to them both. There are tiny hints that there could be something more between them, but it never takes wing, and that, believe it or not, made Lost in Translation more endearing, and dare I say believable.

Sophia Coppola gives us a story that at times languishes on the edge of boredom, but never fully commits. Those moments were designed to depict the empty nature of loneliness and what it can drive us to do in order to remain sane. We also get a glimpse into the ever fascinating and weird Japanese culture with its strange games shows and preoccupation with video game parlors and all things karaoke. And we are also introduced to the blinding collage of colors that is the city of Tokyo at night. One of my most enduring memories from my travels with the Navy is seeing Tokyo lit up at night like an endless celebration of Christmas in neon. By day the city is rather grey, but at night…

In only her second time behind the lens Coppola gives us a poised, intelligent movie that balances a smattering of comedic moments with poignancy rarely glimpsed in American movies.

I have to agree with other reviews when they proclaim Bill Murray’s performance in this movie his finest to date. Gone (mostly) is the annoying quirkiness that I so despised in the actor’s other movies. In Lost in Translation we are greeted by a fully grown up Bill Murray and he is a likeable fellow, who is only occasionally given to silliness. But in this case it’s endearing and welcome.

Scarlett Johansson also turns in a surprisingly weighty performance as a newly wed woman searching for her place in the world. Johansson makes Charlotte's loneliness and disillusionment palpable as the woman is cut off from life in ways she never imagined; her husband barely notices her, and her family back home in the U.S. has all but forgotten her.

As I stated above when the credits rolled at the end of Lost in Translation a movie I thought would hold no allure for me was utterly enjoyed. This is a smart movie that begs the viewer to pay attention to the subtle: lingering eyes and body gestures are just as important to the story as the spoken word. The end of Lost in Translation may leave some frustrated, but I think it was a fitting end to a delightful well written, rather poetic movie.

Movie Details:

Principle Actors: Bill Murray, Scarlett Johansson, Giovanni Ribisi.
Director: Sophia Coppola
Format: AC-3, Closed-captioned, Color, Dolby, Widescreen, NTSC
Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only.
Number of Discs: (1)
Rating: R for sequences language, nudity.
Studio: Universal Studios
DVD Release Date: February 3, 2004
Run Time: 102 Minutes
DVD Features: N/a


Viewing Format: DVD
Video Occasion: Fit for Friday Evening
Suitability For Children: Not suitable for Children of any age

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More Lost in Translation reviews
review by . May 28, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
**** out of ****     Bob is an aging movie star; fighting depression and anxiety in the later years of his life, lonely and lacking friendship outside of his home-land, and on a business trip in Tokyo, Japan. We never see Bob when he's at home; we only see him arrive, and thrive, in the city. Bob goes throughout the day dealing with photo-shoots as well as the Japanese fan-base for his films. Bob does not speak Japanese; and has much trouble understanding these nigh-alien beings …
Quick Tip by . July 27, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
Perfectly written and acted. I think we all knew the guy who lead in Meatballs could give an emotional performence like that.
Quick Tip by . July 14, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
Not really a great movie, but thank you Sofia for introducing us to Scarlett.
Quick Tip by . July 12, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
Strong performances by the leads in this film. Was a bit slow moving for me, though.
review by . August 24, 2009
posted in Movie Hype
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 …
Quick Tip by . August 21, 2009
Probably the only movie that I enjoy SJ in.
review by . November 26, 2007
The title says it all. I read multiple reviews of Lost in Translation and hesitated...do I want to invest an hour and a half of my life into this film?      Finally, I had a quiet few moments, an opportunity presented itself and I decided to give it a shot.      I can understand the mixed reviews. If you are expecting a movie that ties up any sort of loose ends or follows a plot, you aren't going to like it. If you are expecting Bill Murray to be hilarious, …
review by . January 26, 2007
The subject of two lonely people, one man, one woman, having a chance encounter that blossoms into something more, is quite a common one for movies, books and TV shows. This half-comedic take on it adds the twist of a foreign setting, Tokyo, Japan. The man is Bob, an aging TV star flown into Japan to shoot a drink commercial. The woman is Charlotte, a newlywed tagging along with her husband. Charlotte and Bob meet each other by accident in a bar, and form a friendship while meandering thru the daylife …
review by . December 04, 2005
This is interesting, I'm sure those who are put off by traditional Hollywood productions, which do get old, will love this. I might be crude but I found it a bit too subtle.  Chatlotte, played by Scarlett Johansson was a charming character, someone you wish you could be best friends with, but she still looks the 19 years old girl she is. She does not look like the 25 year old married woman she plays.  During the whole movie all you can think about is, will Bill Murray and Johansson …
review by . May 06, 2004
I am not a professional critic, but wow... I have never disagreed more about a film that has received so much acclaim. Bill Murray does give a stellar performance (the reason for making it to two stars instead of just one), but the movie needs something that resembles a plot.From what I was able to decipher, this is a movie that shows how two totally different people can be brought together when both are on the "outside" looking in (Such as being in Japan for a few weeks) . This is not a plot... …
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Vincent Martin ()
Ranked #188
I am an IT Professional and have worked in the industry for over 20 years. I may be a computer geek, but I also like reading, writing, cooking, music, current events and regretfully, politics.
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Like a good dream, Sofia Coppola's Lost in Translation envelops you with an aura of fantastic light, moody sound, head-turning love, and a feeling of déjà vu, even though you've probably never been to this neon-fused version of Tokyo. Certainly Bob Harris has not. The 50-ish actor has signed on for big money shooting whiskey ads instead of doing something good for his career or his long-distance family. Jetlagged, helplessly lost with his Japanese-speaking director, and out of sync with the metropolis, Harris (Bill Murray, never better) befriends the married but lovelorn 25-year-old Charlotte (played with heaps of poise by 18-year-old Scarlett Johansson). Even before her photographer husband all but abandons her, she is adrift like Harris but in a total entrapment of youth. How Charlotte and Bill discover they are soul mates will be cherished for years to come. Written and directed by Coppola (The Virgin Suicides), the film is far more atmospheric than plot-driven: we whiz through Tokyo parties, karaoke bars, and odd nightlife, always ending up in the impossibly posh hotel where the two are staying. The wisps of bittersweet loneliness of Bill and Charlotte are handled smartly and romantically, but unlike modern studio films, this isn't a May-November fling film. Surely and steadily, the film ends on a much-talked-about grace note, which may burn some, yet awards film lovers who "always had Paris" with another cinematic ...
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Director: Sofia Coppola
Release Date: October 3, 2003, September 12, 2003
MPAA Rating: R
Screen Writer: Sofia Coppola
Runtime: 1hr 42min
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