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Lost in Translation

2003 comedy-drama film

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Get lost; immerse yourself. Escape, with Coppola's masterful piece of moody cinema.

  • May 28, 2011
**** 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 and their way of speech (which is the source of a couple damn fine laughs). Bob is promoting whisky; which he also ends up drinking at a fancy hotel bar every night due to his own emotional troubles. Bob is a funny, kindly spirit; target to the evil of insomnia and isolation. He is looking for a connection; although feels alien in the city of Tokyo.

Charlotte is a young woman who really doesn't do anything worth mentioning. She too is in Tokyo, but accompanied by her husband; a successful and passionate photographer who is gone most of the day, leaving Charlotte to fend for herself when it comes to entertainment and happiness. Charlotte is not happy. In fact, she's so unhappy that she often finds herself listening to self-emotional-help audio CD's. Like Bob, Charlotte is also unable to sleep due to insomnia, and she is never quite able to communicate or so much as talk to her husband's photography-ambition-obsessed friends. She is consistently lonely, and during her stay in Tokyo, she walks around the city and observes the culture; attempting to, perhaps, absorb something for herself.

Tokyo is a beautiful city. Abundant with food, culture, and lights; the place is the perfect setting for Sofia Coppola's most well-known, critically acclaimed film. The city is almost a character here; given personality by the characters, and given unexpected surrealism through wonderful cinematography that captures the look and feel of a light-filled city, as well as music that fits the mood as well.

Bob and Charlotte first set eyes upon each-other in an elevator. They say nothing. Then, they walk out, and start the day.

Sometime later, they meet each-other in that same old hotel bar. Bob drinks his sorrows away, while Charlotte would rather smoke her way through these dark, emotional feelings. They both understand that they cannot fight their way through loneliness and depression without a connection, and thus, they are seeking the same thing; out of each-other, and out of themselves.

What ensues is a series of Tokyo outings. Bob and Charlotte become good friends, and decide to even go places together. Luckily, in spite of the age difference, both are night owls; and both don't quite feel right in this great city. However, Bob and Charlotte hope to escape their depressing existences by having a little fun; and they will, by all means, have fun no matter what the cost may be. The film feels like some sort of love-story, but it is not so much a romance. Most films of this type would end up somewhere in which the two characters have sex, thus plunging their relationship into fragments. But Coppola creates characters that are not vulnerable to such a thing, and I like how she avoided such clichés and hard-ships. "Lost in Translation" is most certainly different and unique; but also profound and unforgettable.

And then, it all comes to Bob's grand departure, in which one of the best movie endings I've ever seen is officially born. I shall not tell you "what" this ending is, but it's somewhat of a mystery, and technology has even attempted to solve it. But the splendid thing about endings such as this one is that they cannot be explained; they cannot even be interpreted. We cannot know this ending. If Ms. Coppola wanted us to know it, she would have come up front and told us.

"Lost in Translation" is one of the best films, that I have seen, that explores the human connection with this much depth. The film will speak to anyone who has ever felt alone, desolate, or isolated; not just in a big city and in a foreign country, but anywhere, really. I liked that. Few films can help the viewer to relate without actually being in the exact situation, but that's precisely the magic of films like this one.

Tokyo looks especially beautiful in this film. Lance Acord's work as a cinematographer in this film...I consider is quite legendary. The mood is set also through music, and may I just say, this is an area in which Ms. Coppola has absolutely spectacular taste. The film is all about mood; and sometimes, it feels absolutely surreal. Sure, I enjoy surrealism whenever it pops up, but seldom is it used outside of the supernatural, or the macabre, or the just-plain-weird.

And then, there's Bill Murray as Bob. Murray is starting to show his age as a comedic actor. Here, he takes on one of his first serious roles; which is thankfully, a very good one. In fact, I think this is Murray's best performance; and that's coming from someone who absolutely loves Bill Murray. Even with his comedic persona at least 90% gone, there's still some humor to be found in the film. It is, in fact, part drama; part comedy. And what a great mix it is. Scarlett Johansson on the other hand, is also great. The actress was merely eighteen when they shot the film, which is incredible, considering her performance.

Sofia Coppola is an outstanding filmmaker. Her films are (mostly) based off observation of characters, setting, and script; and this is a film of hers that shall stick with me, perhaps forever, or perhaps for a long-time. "Lost in Translation" leaves you feeling lost and alienated, just like the characters, but it's one of the only times where you'll enjoy the feeling. My advice: enjoy it while it lasts. "Lost in Translation" is one of my favorite films; I can say I grew up with it, I can say I admire it, and best of all, I can say I watched it. The film does not merely make you feel good; it makes you feel, well, intoxicated; for better or for worse. It speaks to me, it really does, when a movie such as this is made about such a subject as the one (s) covered here. Few dramas are as taut and expertly crafted as this one. And few can get along without adding melodrama to the mix. But "Lost in Translation" gets lost, indeed, from those genre expectations. And that's what I love about it.

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June 04, 2011
I remember it took me two viewings to get into this one but it sure was a fine film. Nice review!
More Lost in Translation reviews
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 10, 2006
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; …
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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Ryan J. Marshall ()
Ranked #11
It's very likely that the only kind of reviews I'll ever post here are movie reviews. I'm very passionate about film; and at this point, it pretty much controls my life. Film gives us a purpose; … more
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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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