Lost in Translation (DVD, 2004, Widescreen) Reviews
Click to see larger image

Lost in Translation (DVD, 2004, Widescreen)

162 ratings (116 Epinions reviews)
Epinions Product Rating: Very Good
5 stars
44
4 stars
26
3 stars
8
2 stars
18
1 star
20
Share This!
  Ask friends for feedback

Where Can I Buy It?

$5.99
+$2.99 shipping eBay
$8.71
+$3.00 shipping eBay
$8.77
9.88
+$4.97 shipping Walmart.com

A well crafted and subtle love story with outstanding performances

Feb 4, 2004 (Updated Mar 3, 2004)
Review by  
Rated a Very Helpful Review

Pros:Murray and Johansson tingle with onscreen chemistry and Coppola directs with credible confidence

Cons:Technically the film can appear unfinished, low on action and plot if you need them.

The Bottom Line: What this film lacks in technical finesse and action packed drama it more than compensates for in the sheer humanity of it's central characters who steal the show.


I had no idea what to expect from this film, having failed to make out exactly what it was about before I saw it. And there’s a good reason for that, you see now that I have seen it I’d still be hard pushed to say exactly what it’s about. There’s the setting, the busy, non-stop, loud, excitable, neon world of down town Tokyo, and then there’s the two central characters, Bob Harris (played by the legendary Bill Murray) and Charlotte (played by rising star, Scarlett Johansson). Beyond that there are a few extra characters and a whole plethora of ultra-friendly yet wholly incomprehensible Japanese extras and, well, not a lot else really.

Doesn’t sound too promising so far. But then this is Bill Murray we’re talking about, and he really is at his best here. Bob Harris is a retiring actor who winds up in Tokyo to make some easy money by advertising whiskey. With his nagging wife and whining children haunting him from home you quickly get the sense that Harris is stuck somewhere in between his spiralling career and his lacklustre marriage, reluctant to commit fully to either and lost in the memories of what he once had and who he once was. Suffice to say Murray pulls this role off with expert ease, mixing perfect comic timing with a genuine level of feeling and a fair degree of identification. He is wholly believable and convincing, being both amusing and moving, in an underplayed role which fits him perfectly. Comparisons to Jack Nicholson’s performance in About Schmidt are not unwarranted, but Murray seems to glimmer with a little more hope in this exotic setting, managing to avoid slipping down that easy slope towards melancholy.

Harris' wry, self aware aura is perfectly complimented by the sprightly presence of a recently married philosophy graduate, who is also looking for some meaning and companionship after her incessantly preoccupied husband abandons her on yet another photo shoot. And so over a cocktail of insomnia and boredom this unlikely couple embark on a friendship of discovery, yearning and karaoke in the bright lights and long nights of Tokyo.

Technically speaking this is no masterpiece, there’s plenty to pick at if you’re feeling particularly fastidious, but this is a brave piece of film making for a second film, and by no means a ‘safe bet’. And for that reason I’m prepared to forgive Sophia Coppola for it’s occasionally amateurish editing and dubious camera work. This is the sort of film you expect from a seasoned director who, bored of making main stream blockbusters, decides to work on something subtle, slow moving, reflective and character based, because basically they’ve got nothing left to prove and they’re getting a little introspective in their old age. In my view Coppola has brought a rare originality to the themes of loneliness and love which for me far outweigh the lack of clinically cut and masterfully edited scenes which usually accompany this theme.

Because of the apparent lack of action or plot development the entire film rests on the believability of the interaction between the two central characters. And fortunately for Coppola the onscreen chemistry between Murray and Johansson is utterly convincing, even though it’s not easy to categorise. Normally we’re used to a few generic ‘types’ of onscreen chemistry. There is of course the ‘lovers chemistry’ which tends to occur outside marriage between two people driven by epic romantic overtones and consumed with illict sexual desire, normally resulting in a mid-way ‘love’ scene for which A-list actors require the services of Z-list body doubles. Then there’s the ‘buddy chemistry’ which occurs between best friends, who are often both cops (and grew up in the same 'hood'), or are otherwise intrinsically involved in the unfolding action and despite much banter will be called upon to put their life on the line for each other. Occasionally we see some ‘family chemistry’ in which the genuine, complicated bonds which ties the most unlikely characters together in the mix of families is explored, but mostly well within stereotypical boundaries. But the relationship which unfolds in random corridor meetings and across a crowded bar between Murray and Johansson doesn’t sit neatly in any of these categories. In a way it encompasses a little of them all, but never finding fulfilment in any one.

It is an affair of suggestion, a flirtation with possibility which hides a deeper longing to be known and understood. Charlotte is beautiful enough to be immediately attractive to Bill, who in turn is hansom and famous enough to qualify as intriguing to the young wife, but their chemistry comes from an immediate recognition of what the other needs. This chemistry is mingled with a lingering tension in which both can see the others need, but realises that they cannot fully meet it, in their current situation. And the whole film rests playfully on this tension between their growing companionship and the inevitable situation it creates when an older man flirts with the affections of a younger woman. Coppola deals with this both sensitively and intelligently, avoiding stifling her characters with obvious clichés and allowing them to own their roles, so that dialogue never feels forced. The script is as sparse as the plot and refreshingly lean, relying on glances and gestures as much as the speech, the unsaid saying more than the said. Although unless you’re able to become fully involved with the characters, and feel connected with their relationship this lack of communication could become frustrating.

But fortunately Sophia Coppola manages to credit the audience with enough intelligence to engage with the characters on their own terms, without resorting to the usual box of directors tricks and emotional cues for the intellectually inept… ‘laugh here’.. ‘cry now’ … ‘this character is in pain’.. By dwelling on the normalness of their lives, Coppola amplifies the strangeness of their surroundings and translates their loneliness into something incredibly personal. It is the placement of the ordinary, familiar into unusual surroundings which increases this sense of isolation and being ‘lost’. The scenes of Charlotte walking around her hotel room in a jumper, underwear and slippers create a visual feel of a longing for home, as she sits, curled up on the window ledge, looking out over the sprawling foreign city. And the wonderfully comic invasion of domestic life into Bob’s hotel room as a selection of burgundy carpet samples fall out onto his hotel floor, Fed-Exed by his estranged wife for whom life must simply ‘carry on’ in his absence.

And although for some the lack of a tangible, driving story line will be off putting, I personally found this extremely refreshing. Especially after the recent 'Lord of the Rings/Matrix/Last Samurai' epic-fest which, though rewarding, can leave you extremely exhausted as a viewer. How important the lack of narrative becomes is likely to depend on how you approach the film. If you’re looking for an evening of pure escapism and visual stimulation to distract or otherwise enable your mind to disengage from everyday life, don’t go to see this film. You really have to do some work to get the most out of this story, you have to chose to engage and invest in characters who don’t initially promise a lot in return, and almost find your own story, as Coppola doesn’t resolve everything on your behalf. And in one of the her bravest moves Coppola allows the characters to exchange one of their most intimate final moments in secret. We watch the whispers and see the reaction, but have no idea what's been said, as though we'd just been passing by in the street. Leaving us to make our own conclusion, leaving the story in our hands and reminding us that these things are rarely 'neatly resolved'.

The film moves at times with an almost voyeuristic feel, which is reinforced by several scenes in which we see the characters doing nothing of significance, staring out of the window over a bustling, alien city, drinking quietly at the bar alone, even battling courageously against an out of control running machine. These scenes are somewhat unusual for an audience who are used to a mainstream, plot-driven style of film making in which every action a character makes is of uttermost significance or consequence (for example when was the last time you saw a character watch a news item which wasn't somehow directly linked to the plot?). And with this mindset it’s hard to engage with scenes where we find ourselves projecting meaning and significance in places where it doesn’t belong, or is simply far more subtle than we are accustomed to. This isn’t always the case however, especially with the peripheral characters who do tend to fall into basic typecasts, the horrendously shallow and irritating ‘star’ and the nagging wife at home are fairly one dimensional additions, serving only to highlight the intricate complexities of the central characters. But if you can allow yourself to be drawn into these complexities there is great reward awaiting, the more you invest early on, the more you’ll gain by the end of the film.

Because we are not spoon-fed our emotional responses I found it much easier to engage with the characters as a result, never feeling patronised or overly pandered to. People could complain that there’s no central storyline, but I think that’s partly because we’re so used to a linear narrative which takes us from point A to point C, via point B. If a film lacks an obvious, beginning, middle and end structure, it’s easy to feel unsettled, and blame the director as a result. As an audience we’re so used to action packed, event-orientated films that we’re not quite sure what to do with something in which the characters are the central events, and the real ‘action’ occurs in what doesn’t happen, not was does. The most important dialogue is communicated in the gaps and pauses between the lines, and the more subtle an expression, the more weight it carries. I’m not saying it’s flawless, and there is a degree of innate self-indulgence about the film which some might find off-putting. But because I don’t think the film was written solely to entertain me, I’m prepared to engage with it, pleased to be a spectator watching something understated and almost delicate unfold.

And what wins me over in the end, brilliant performances aside, is the authenticity of the film. We all know deep down that, much as we enjoy a little romantic escapism, epic love story or even the occasional tear jerking tragedy, real life just isn’t like that. The plot is never simple, the events are never as spectacular and certainly most of us don’t have millions of dollars of special effects at our disposal to kick in right on queue. The more ‘normal’ the characters, the more genuine the experience. Real life happens in the accidental exchange of a smile in a lift, real dialogue isn’t strewn with witty one liners or profound philosophical insight. Real love happens in the awkward expression of need between two people who sense that they’re not altogether complete, and real life just doesn’t make sense. Real loneliness does not make entertaining viewing for an onlooker, and real life isn’t written by a script writer or filmed by a director. And that’s why I like this film. It’s real enough not almost not merit being a film. It lacks so many of the qualities we expect from a film (as some may discover to their disappointment) but as a result is rich in so many of the qualities we so seldom find in films. Neither overly sentimental, nor tragic, not epic or even particularly profound. Occasionally funny, at times sad, but always subtle this film is a wonderful, understated gem of real life. Gently provocative and quietly moving this film never forces itself on the viewer and as such you might not be left with a huge impression on your mind as you walk out, but perhaps you’ll sense that you’ve been moved a less obvious level, and given time, this film is likely to blend into your subconscious and continue to move you long after you’ve forgotten the action packed blockbusters of the summer.


Recommend this product? Yes

Read all comments (4)

Share this product review with your friends   
Share This!


1-9 of 9 best deals

Sofia Coppola's second feature-length film focuses on two guests at a Tokyo hotel--Bob (Bill Murray), a middle-aged actor in town to film whiskey comm...
eBay
Store Rating: 4.0

+$2.99 shipping
Sofia Coppola's second feature-length film focuses on two guests at a Tokyo hotel--Bob (Bill Murray), a middle-aged actor in town to film whiskey comm...
eBay
Store Rating: 4.0
+$3.00 shipping
Bob Harris (Bill Murray) and Charlotte (Scarlett Johansson) are two Americans in Tokyo. Bob is a movie star in town to shoot a whiskey commercial, whi...
Walmart.com
9.88
+$4.97 shipping
Sofia Coppola's second feature-length film focuses on two guests at a Tokyo hotel--Bob (Bill Murray), a middle-aged actor in town to film whiskey comm...
eBay
Store Rating: 4.0
Free Shipping
All of MovieLand Express USA Dvd's are Brand New and Factory Sealed Region 1 with original artwork and in hard plastic cases. We do not sell copies or...
eBay
Store Rating: 4.0
+$3.00 shipping
Sofia Coppola's second feature-length film focuses on two guests at a Tokyo hotel--Bob (Bill Murray), a middle-aged actor in town to film whiskey comm...
eBay
Store Rating: 4.0
+$3.00 shipping
Sofia Coppola's second feature-length film focuses on two guests at a Tokyo hotel--Bob (Bill Murray), a middle-aged actor in town to film whiskey comm...
eBay
Store Rating: 4.0
Free Shipping
Sofia Coppola's second feature-length film focuses on two guests at a Tokyo hotel--Bob (Bill Murray), a middle-aged actor in town to film whiskey comm...
eBay
Store Rating: 4.0
+$3.00 shipping
Sofia Coppola's second feature-length film focuses on two guests at a Tokyo hotel--Bob (Bill Murray), a middle-aged actor in town to film whiskey comm...
eBay
Store Rating: 4.0
Free Shipping
1-9 of 9 best deals     Why are these stores listed?