YES!!! Harry here, and this review has me charged beyond belief to see Sofia Coppola's second directorial outing. Her first was the absolutely wonderful VIRGIN SUICIDES - and ever since I saw that wondrous film, I've been dying to see her next film... Unfortunately, I haven't seen it yet, but Vorpal's description has me anticipating this film greatly. And I can just hear Moriarty's heart pounding in anticipation of a great Bill Murray film and performance. Here you go with a great look at what sounds like a great film!
Hi there Harry and Moriarty. I'm writing in with a review of Sofia Coppola's new film "Lost in Translation." There's not much information about it on IMDB but I did find out that it's set for a limited release in September. Movie View set up the screening in my home town tonight. They said we were one of the first audiences to see the film, which I can believe considering the total lack of coverage it has seen on this website or any other, for that matter. They gave the typical routine of unfinished color and sound and boom mics in some shots. Except for some unfinished framing, though, the film seemed complete, with a finished score and all that.
So... onto the film itself. I had no idea what the film was about except for the short blurb that came with the invitation and the brief news story that ran on Aintitcool a month or so ago. To be concise, the film deals with Bob (Bill Murray), a Hollywood actor who is on a trip to Tokyo to shoot Japanese commercials for whiskey, and Charlotte (Scarlett Johannson), a recent college grad who is accompanying her photographer husband (Giovanni Ribisi) on one of his shoots in Tokyo. Murray and Johannson slowly get to know each other (as they reside in the same hotel) and they develop a sort of friendship/romance.
That's the story in the proverbial nutshell. But this is not a plot-driven movie. It is a very carefully paced character piece that is sparse on dialogue but full of nuanced action and performances. To start with, the performances are all excellent. Bill Murray's Bob Harris is a somewhat similar character to Herman Blume from Rushmore, although more "toned down." He is tired and sad and has any spark of life that he once had. His wife's affections amount to Fedexing him carpet samples from home. At one point, he muses that he is making 2 million dollars shooting some Japanese commercials when he could have been home acting in a play. He feels his life is meaningless. Much of the humor of the film (and there is a lot) comes from Bob's miscommunications with his Japanese colleagues, such as when a director explains a shot to him in lengthy detail and his translator tells him that the director wants him to "turn toward the camera." Bill Murray keeps getting better as he gets older, and Sofia Coppola really knows how to use his comedic genius in a more dramatic role. This is one of his best performances.
Scarlett Johannson is excellent as Charlotte, the Yale Philosophy major graduate, coping with a new life and a new marriage. She is graceful, especially when she interacts with Anna Faris's shallow, hyperactive movie-star. She and Murray have great chemistry, especially since this type of relationship could have come off as contrived and unappealing if less talented people were involved in its creation. I've liked Scarlet Johannson in other movies, such as "Ghost World," but I think this is her best, most realistic performance.
Giovanni Ribisi has a small role as Johannson's photographer husband, but he is very good at portraying a well-meaning guy who is sucked into the Hollywood lifestyle (even in Japan). His conversation with movie-star Anna Faris epitomizes the shallowness of these interactions.
The cinematography and direction also receive praise. The camera often moves around the scenes dreamily, focusing slowly on characters or objects. The scenes of Tokyo are both beautiful and overwhelming, steeping the audience in the colorful billboards and arcades and karaoke clubs, but also majestic monasteries and mountainsides. Writer/director Coppola is not afraid to allow a scene to speak for itself through character actions and interactions and these quiet lingering moments work amazingly to build tension and a sense of growing understanding between Murray and Johannson. One of the most erotic moments I've ever seen in a movie occurs when Johannson and Murray lie on a bed talking (just talking) about their lives, and at the end of the scene Murray gently puts his hand on hers. That's it. But the film builds the sexual tension between them so slowly and effectively that this first moment of physical contact between them is more romantic, sad, and realistic than almost anything I've seen in Hollywood movies, such as the tacked-on and predictable romance between Mark Wahlberg and Charlize Theron in "The Italian Job." This is not romance in the traditional sense; it is more about two people with similar problems and fears who find each other when each is stuck in an isolated world of miscommunication and misperception and provide one another with support that does not seem to exist anywhere else in the world. The ending of the movie is so perfect and simple that I don't want to give it away, but it epitomizes the film's title and main theme, being "lost in translation," which in this case is both a difficult and beautifully mysterious thing.
I'm sorry if this review is somewhat vague, but I didn't want to spoil the intricate ways that the characters learn about themselves and each other and how the relationship between Murray and Johannson grows in such a way that it is not once creepy or gross or unbelievable. I believe this is one of the best movie romances I have seen in the past several years, and maybe in my whole life. Finally, I realize that I have been emphasizing the romance aspect, which is the driving force behind the movie, but there is also a lot of humor regarding miscommunications and differences in cultures. Congratulations to Sofia Coppola and all the cast and crew who do some great work here to craft an amazing movie that definitely lives up to its predecessor "The Virgin Suicides" (although they are very different films). My only fear is that some people at these test screenings may not "get" the movie and will rank it as slow or rank the romantic relationship unfavorably. I hope the filmmakers don't change much, if anything, especially not to dumb it down so that an average audience would find it easier to handle. Basically, if you want a smart, subtle, insightful, extremely well-acted comedic-romantic-drama, then "Lost in Translation" is going to be a good fit for you when it gets released later this year. If that doesn't sound appealing, then I'm sure the next J.Lo romantic comedy is just around the corner...