Our week-long look at Bill Murray films concludes today, and I decided to wrap it up with my favorite Murray picture, 2003’s “Lost in Translation.” I hope you enjoyed this trip down Bill Murray Movie Memory Lane half as much as I did.
(For other Bill Murray movies featured this week, you can link to “Broken Flowers” (2005), “Stripes” (1981), “Kingpin” (1996), “Rushmore” (1998), “Groundhog Day” (1993), and “Quick Change” (1990))
“Lost in Translation” (2003) 5 / 5 stars – Writer/director Sofia Coppola’s unique and highly original picture – which won the Best Screenplay Academy Award and garnered three other Oscar nominations, including Best Actor (Bill Murray), Best Director and Best Picture – is a wondrous organic movie experience about the unlikely bond between two people in an unfamiliar land.
Through scores of interesting shots throughout the film’s setting, Tokyo, and Murray’s and Scarlett Johansson’s stripped-down performances, Coppola’s movie engages via a slow simmer and surprises with a soulful emotional impact.
This is a beautiful story of connection.
As the film opens, 50-something American movie star Bob Harris (Murray) doesn’t seem connected to his surroundings at all.
In the backseat of a limo, he rubs his eyes in an attempt to adjust to his strange surroundings and the wild lights of downtown Tokyo.
Every bright color from your typical Crayola box, with a neon electric twist, flashes and blinks in every direction which resembles New York City’s Times Square on steroids.
Upon his arrival at a five-star hotel, Bob is greeted by a team of people in preparation for some work the next day.
Suntory Holdings Limited will pay Bob $2,000,000 to endorse its whiskey, and he’s in Tokyo to star in their commercial.
All he needs to say is, “For relaxing times, make it Suntory time.”
Easier said than done when the director and film crew don’t speak English, and Bob doesn’t speak Japanese.
Despite the translator on set, something is getting lost in the translation.
It’s a long day for everyone, and Bob isn’t getting much support from his wife, Lydia, at home.
After 25 years of marriage, the spark seemed to burn out long ago.
Meanwhile, Charlotte (Johansson) is a married recent Yale graduate, and her husband, John (Giovanni Ribisi) – who is a photographer – flew them to Tokyo for a photo shoot.
While John incessantly works, Charlotte is left to her own devices in the same hotel (as Bob), and the monstrously-sized city in general.
Although John states his love for her numerous times, Charlotte clearly is second fiddle to his work on this trip.
Hotels are interesting to me because hundreds of people might be living in one location, but each person carries different schedules and agendas.
Despite different itineraries, due to a common living space, paths inevitably cross, and Charlotte and Bob run into each other repeatedly.
They form an instant bond, and idle conversation turns into fun nights on the town and other experiences.
Despite the vast age difference, they form an alliance of sorts while trying to decipher their own relationships and the seemingly odd surroundings in Tokyo.
Computerized dinosaurs walk on the sides of buildings, crosswalks are 20 yards wide, hotel curtains open automatically with the sunrise, Buddhist temples are only a confusing subway ride away, off-kilter arcades appear to exist on every street corner, and karaoke singing takes place in private rooms with big windows overlooking the city rather than in large crowded bars.
And Charlotte and Bob share their discoveries together.
Coppola delicately balances this relationship between friendship and attraction, as we wonder if they will act on potential impulses or remain strictly compadres.
Throughout the picture, we are kept in suspense, as we wish no matter what happens, these two individuals remain on friendly terms.
The hope is Bob and Charlotte help each other through their respective flawed, but completely human, existences.
Coppola generates this hope, and – as someone who was fortunate enough to travel to Tokyo for work a couple of times some years ago – I can attest, she also perfectly captures the spirit of Japan’s largest city.
As the movie ended, nothing was lost in translation.
“Lost in Translation” is available on DVD and Blu-ray is rated R for adult situations and nudity.