Lost In Translation (2003)

 3 STARS

General Information:

The information below is taken from the following link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0335266/

 15 104 min  –  Drama   –  9 January 2004 (UK)

Director

Sofia Coppola

Writer

Sofia Coppola

Stars

Bill Murray; Scarlett Johansson; Giovanni Ribisi

Plot:

Two strangers, who are bored with life, meet together in Tokyo outside of their homeland, America. As the film progresses they form an intriguing bond as they realise that they have more in common than they first realised.

Review:

Despite all of the critical acclaim, the praise and all of the other hoo-hah that this film has received, it still left me wanting more. It lacked something. Something which most films have, something which makes you go to watch a film for, something that really does make or break a film:

a plot.

Okay, I’m being harsh; perhaps this film does have a plot.

A plot that’s fairly watery and lose around the edges that is.

Bob Harris (Bill Murray) and Charlotte (Scarlett Johansson) are two people who are bored with life. Harris is a film-star who has lost all of his fame and glory and is now ending up starring in drinks commercials. Whilst Charlotte is another lost soul who plays the wife of a photographer who ignores her every night, she on the other hand, is not famous, so more of an ‘everywoman’ (in contrast to the overly-used ‘everyman’).  One’s a millionaire, whilst one isn’t. One isn’t ignored, as he is famous, and the other is, as she is not famous and is constantly ignored by her soul-mate.

The film is about how two strangers can meet and form a bond. Quite an odd and intriguing bond as they both have conversations with which you’d only have with a stranger whilst waiting at a bus stop. Conversations without detail – and without detail is without any attachment, in this sense their relationship is, in a sense, fulfilling, as they can have conversations but without being judged, as after all, they don’t really know each other. Whereas, if you had a conversation with your partner, or your friend, or your boss, you are being judged, which is why their bond is so unique and which is also why they are both emotionally attached with each other (even though their conversations have some level of detachment). In this respect the film is witty, clever and original. I liked the first half of the film for this reason, the film was comical and it had undercurrent commentaries of day-to-day life. Yet, the film carries on, and this ‘plot’ got thinner and thinner because well, it isn’t even a plot. Yes, it’s original, but it leaves the second half nowhere to go on. What did I like in the first half? Well, there were various comical moments, these moments perhaps being slightly ‘racist’ to Japanese people, but hey-hoh, that’s ‘art’ for you.
I also liked the originality of how the two characters met. I liked the fact that they both had self-improvement CDs as they were both lost.

What also strikes me about this film is the fact that it has a certificate of ‘15’. What for? It’s the most watery 15 I have ever seen. It contains no violence, some references to sex (i.e. boobs and a few hookers), a few odd ‘rude words’ here and there, but 15, really? How can the BBFC award a 15 about two strangers having conversations with each other? Surely a 12. At least a PG.

Anyway, enough of the politics…Bill Murray, plays Bob, and there is no other way to describe his performance other than: superb. I do believe that this is his best performance yet. It is a very intriguing performance, and one of those performances that is very rare in a film: it feels real. He doesn’t play Bob Harris, neither is he pretending to be Bob Harris, he is Bob Harris. His performance is subtle – subtle is very difficult to play, and it is a good subtle, it is not underdone, and it is not overdone, it is just right. In this respect, I can compare his performance to Anthony Hopkins’ performance in The Silence of the Lambs. Obviously excluding the fact the Bill isn’t a psychopath who eats people for ‘fun’ that is.

Both of their performances are subtle, so subtle that it is believable and real.

However, I have so much to criticise. Yes the acting was of the top-notch – but that is, surely, the least anyone expects from a film. Unless of course, if you like Keanu Reaves, (but that’s a different matter, a different review, a different rant).

So anyway, the acting was good, but the film lacks – as I mentioned earlier – plot. The plot is basically several random, aimless conversations that these two strangers have. This spans over the length of an entire film. I don’t like that. If it were a one-off serial drama which lasted for forty-five minutes, I would have been pleased, delighted, in fact. Yet, this is a film; this is longer, which makes these conversations drift off into a dreamscape impossible-land of ever-so-increasing-dullness. The film is like blank canvas with a miniscule dot in the middle, it’s got something in it, but not much, not much to be even be classed as ‘brilliant’. However, I must take into account that many people like this film, reviews class it as philosophical and a commentary on day-to-day life. People have claimed that this film made them think about their lives and if life is really worth living. Unfortunately, I didn’t feel that. If a film wants to commentate on such philosophical questions, it needs to be impactful, not subtle. It needs to be in-your-face, not just hide behind the corner hoping not to be seen.

This is where Lost In Translation falls, it is not heavy in substance, it is like a slow feather falling to the floor. Great to look at, but not much to it. However, if you like films that are attempting to be philosophical but aren’t quite getting there, this is the film for you.

Oh well, the acting was good.

Verdict:

A thoroughly original plot, yet the film digs its own hole in the fact that the plot doesn’t give it anywhere to dig any further, as it well…goes nowhere. I like the originality of the plot – yet I don’t like the fact that this is the one and only leg the film stands on. Yet I suppose that’s what the film-makers intended: to suggest that life ends nowhere, we are all lost souls, like the characters in the film: who are, as the title suggests: Lost In Translation.

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5 thoughts on “Lost In Translation (2003)

  1. Pingback: Sika’s 100 Greatest Movies of All Time! 51. Lost in Translation (2003) « Lunki and Sika – Movie, TV, Celebrity and Entertainment News. And Other Silliness.

  2. See, I don’t know. I went into it (ok, well, downloaded it) with no real knowledge of what to expect, save for the presence of Bill Murray, and came out entertained. Like you say, the plot that Coppola sets up isn’t particularly sustained throughout the film, but I get the feeling that that’s what the film is meant to do. It’s a slice of life where these two people cross paths, and that’s about as much plot as it needs.

    I’d say that it works far more effectively as a piece of art (with the characters and the setting so well-defined) than it does as a film. That’s the balance: is the point of the film to demonstrate the characters, or the plot? In this case, definitely the characters, and in that it succeeds. Could it have been a better film if it tilted the other way? Perhaps.

    But then maybe I’m nostalgic about it, rose-tinted glasses and all that.

    • Yeah, I see what you mean. I mean it is definitely an arthouse film, no question about it, Michael Bay fans won’t find this a good watch. However, somebody who likes to think about films after viewing them may find this food for thought. I just feel, that perhaps it goes on for slightly too long. Maybe fifteen minutes needed to be chopped off, if so, I would have considered it to be a perfect film. I suppose at the end of the day, it’s an issue of taste really, some believe this to be a total masterpiece about loneliness and the power of friendship, some believe it to be utterly boring and pointless. I stand in the middle perhaps. It’s interesting, I find how one film can cause so much debate. Anyway, thanks for commenting.

  3. Oh….and ermmm….you said about this film being plot vs character…That’s tough really. I mean, I suppose the plot is the character and the character is the plot, because it’s a character study. It’s a very ambiguous, open-ended film – so I suppose it’s harder to comment on it, and perhaps my review was slightly unfair. But you’re right, I see what you mean….

  4. Pingback: Before Sunrise (1995) « Star Reviews

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