Having attained numerous “four star” reviews throughout the country, Lost In Translation stands as one of the most critically acclaimed movies of 2003. The result: Golden Globe wins for Best Comedy, Best Actor in a Comedy and Best Screenplay, as well as Oscar nominations for Best Actor, Best Picture, and Best Director.
Directed by Sofia Copolla, the daughter of legendary film director Francis Ford Copolla, Lost In Translation stars Bill Murray as Bob Harris, a washed-up actor getting paid big money to endorse a Japanese whisky.
Upon arriving in Tokyo, Bob immediately feels lost, despite the fact that he receives a royal welcome from the hotel staff. The audience doesn’t need to have Bob say how he feels; it is written all over his face. It’s not just the culture-shock that has him feeling lost. He has a burden that he’s carrying even before he arrives in Tokyo.
Murray, surprisingly, does an excellent job capturing the disillusionment and hopelessness of Bob. The Bill Murray I’m used to is the goofy, sarcastic Bill Murray from What About Bob?, Groundhog Day and the Ghostbusters movies. As I watched the movie, I could think of no one that could do the role of Bob Harris like Murray did.
However, Bob isn’t the only lonely American soul staying at the hotel. Charlotte, played by Scarlett Johansson, is a young American woman accompanying her husband, John (played by Giovanni Ribisi), a music photographer. Because John has to go off to work everyday, Charlotte is left alone by herself in the hotel. She walks around Tokyo, exploring some of the sites, but still feels lost and lonely.
Eventually, Bob and Charlotte strike up a conversation at the hotel bar late one night, when neither one of them can sleep very well. Their first conversation is awkward – the kind many of us often have with a total stranger when we’re by ourselves somewhere. However, something feels different about this one; despite the awkwardness of their initial conversation, a connection starts to form between Bob and Charlotte.
When John has to go away for a few days for work, Bob and Charlotte begin hanging out more. They attend a karaoke party, making utter fools of themselves as they sing. In doing so, you can see Bob and Charlotte come alive. You see n new spark in their souls. They start to feel connected not only to each other but to themselves. Through the rest of Bob’s stay in Tokyo, the two form a deep, albeit brief, connection that makes for a bittersweet ending.
Lost In Translation is a nice change of pace from some of the major blockbusters of the year, including fellow Best Picture nominee The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King. Don’t get me wrong, ROTK is a great movie, and rightfully deserves its Oscar nomination. But there is something so simple, yet so powerful, about Lost In Translation that can never be captured with any sort of CGI. The hype is well-deserved; I give Lost In Translation five stars out of a possible five.