Well, I’ve never heard of this movie before, but I’m told by my roommate (and expert movie-guide) that it’s one of the few Oscar nominations directed by a woman, so I suppose I should watch it.
I have high expectations for this film, because I find that romantic movies are infinitely better with women calling the shots. (Literally. Because…cameras? Shots? Get it?) An Academy-approved writer/director? Scarlett Johansson before she got famous? I’m ready.
So here’s what happens. Bob Harris (played by Bill Murray) is the kind of guy that drinks scotch and listens to jazz – maybe. He’s definitely not the kind of actor who wants to star in weird Japanese whiskey commercials. Charlotte (Scarlett Johansson) is barely married and already a bored house-wife. Her photographer husband is running around Tokyo, having a ball, while she’s stuck in their hotel, knitting – mostly. She’s a philosophy major, Jesus, she needs some intellectual stimulus. After a few chance encounters, mostly over booze, the two of them bond over their confusion in this strange new land and low-key fall in love.
And . . . it’s okay.
Kind of boring actually.
It’s one of those emotional journey kind of films where not much happens plot-wise, which puts a lot of pressure on the characters to hold our attention. Problem is, I don’t care much about either of them. I feel like Bob and Charlotte are purposely written as subdued characters, but they just feel bland.
Also, their reluctant-tourist vibe rubs me the wrong way. Tokyo is such an incredible city – and Bob is literally being paid $2 million dollars to be there – but he and Charlotte spend the first half of their vacation wishing it was over.
Their romance also makes very little progress through the film. There’s always that subtext underneath their friendship, but neither Bob or Charlotte wants to cross that line. Normally, I appreciate films where the protagonists don’t end up together, but after spending two hours on this romance, it feels like wasted time.
In fairness to the movie, I’m not a big fan of the romance genre in general. I especially don’t like rooting for characters who are already in committed relationships. So I can see how someone else, with less specific peeves, could have a completely different opinion. And hey, if the Academy wants to award a female writer/director, who am I to stand in their way?