Lost in Translation (2003)

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.

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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.

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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?

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6 thoughts on “Lost in Translation (2003)

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  1. I do actually love this film. Not much happens but there is definitely something about it that I really love. By the way the director Sofia Coppola has a new film out this year which looks interesting. Its a remake of a film called The Beguiled and it certainly looks like it could be worth watching. Oh and I watched The Timer. I loved it….until the end! What did it mean? Was she going to get with Dan and go with the whole Timer thing anyway? How frustrating. I loved it all, except for the last five minutes. : /

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  2. Hey, I’m just honored that you watched it. I actually liked the open ending. I don’t know why it works for me in Timer, but not in Lost in Translation.

    I think my problem was that I kept comparing Lost in Translation to Her, which was directed by Coppola’s ex-husband. I thought that was a cooler premise. Still, I’d be interested in watching some of her other movies.

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  3. So glad to see your honesty and curiosity. Not sure if you saw Moonlight, but I would compare this film to it. I too am not a fan of romance films, but the thing I loved about these two films is that they both mastered the depiction of nuance. You can see the interactions slowly progress more and more between the characters, you find beauty in the most banal moments, and you finish the film having seen a very chilling, intimate, real sense of life in its aimless journeys. I also love this film because some of its coolest moments are its transitional ones that unfold between the more important scenes. If you rewatch the night where they go out together and party with those random friends, I think you’ll really like the artistic ambiance, beautiful combination of sound mixing and a great soundtrack, and lots of really cool shots (another cool one is Scarlett when she’s sitting in her window in her room in the morning and you see the camera pan around the windows in the background—giving you a really artistic, captivating sense of the city.

    At the end of the day, I say all of this not to come off as a “know it all,” but as somebody who is simply a huge fan of this film and watched it many times. The only true “romantic” films I really love are Lost in Translation, Carol (my favorite film of all time), Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, and Her, but I highly recommend that you rewatch this one if possible. I think the fact that it is sort of boring is also very fitting for the context of the story—as it is a mere tale of star-crossed lovers who met by chance and know that things will never work out between them, and so we’re left seeing the lingering emotion that unfolds between the two in their brief interactions. Let me know what you think if you get around to it!

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  4. It’s funny b/c I watched Her and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and I loved both of those. I think when it comes down to it, I just didn’t connect to Bob and Charlotte the way I did to Theodore and Samantha or Joel and Clemente.Also I think I was definitely drawn more to those movies b/c their premises. (I’ll definitely add Carol to my list, too)

    Wow, thanks for the comment! I love talking to ppl who get really excited about movies.

    Liked by 1 person

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