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LOST IN TRANSLATION (2003)
"Lost in Translation" is the poignant drama/comedy that tells of the uncanny friendship of aged and jaded U.S. actor Bob Harris with the young and astute academic wife, Charlotte, of a rookie American photographer. As Harris heads to Tokyo to endorse a Japanese Whiskey, he runs into the troubled Charlotte and together the two seek solace and company in each other in a country where nothing but friendship and a few good rounds of karaoke makes any sense.
Written and directed by: Sofia Coppola.
Genre: Drama, Comedy.
Rated: R for some sexual content.
Tagline: Some things don't need words to explain.
Bob Harris (Bill Murray) is a jaded middle-aged U.S. movie actor that has just agreed to travel to Tokyo, Japan for several weeks to endorse a new Japanese Whiskey. Leaving behind his less than enthusiastic wife and his kids, Harris does his best to make his way through Tokyo with as least attention as possible directed his way. But Harris's large stature, blaringly American looks, and his more than neglectful conceding to the 'precarious Japanese customs', he seeks comfort in his gratis bottles of whiskey and the nightly piano bar performances by an English-speaking redhead with a sultry voice.
Pan to the young Charlotte (Scarlett Johansson); wife of American photographer John (Giovanni Ribisi) who has been re-stationed in Tokyo, Japan to photograph high-profile celebs and the like. While John runs around Tokyo, touring, working, and dappling into other novel requirements of his field, Charlotte is left to tackle boredom, cabin fever, and homesickness back at the hotel. Having read her latest self-help book and listened to her spiritual tape a thousand times over, Charlotte begins to feel the acrid encroachment of depression linger into her life. Lonely, lost, and wrestles, Charlotte battles the long hours of the night; looking for a means to salvage her boredom and ineptness to sleep.
So too is the conflicted Harris battling insomnia and, after an uncanny decision to head downstairs to once again listen to the latest jazz song from the redheaded siren, he runs into the intriguing Charlotte. What begins as a few lines of witty banter evolves into a poignant friendship as Charlotte and Bob stave of self-doubt and loneliness in the comfort of each other's company. From crazy techno-clubs to hilarious karaoke sessions with a few close Japanese buddies, to great Japanese sushi and fondue meals, Charlotte and Bob begin to feel better about themselves and their life. Meanwhile Charlotte's hubby John is off gallivanting with the notoriously attractive yet airhead-ish U.S. starlet while Bob battles the inanely boring phone conversations with his wife.
Deciding to extend his initially 'tragically over-extended trip', Harris takes on a few extra promotional jobs from talk shows to photo shoots to buy more time to befriend Charlotte. All the while remaining faithful to their partners, Charlotte and John begin to now stave off something beside insomnia; attraction.
What began as an innocent friendship begins to develop into a complicated relationship that smacks of a dead-end that, had the circumstances been different, may have had potential. Seeking comfort in a wild, meaningless fling with the vocal redhead, Bob answers his door to a disapproving Charlotte. With only 24 hours left in his Tokyo stint, Bob goes in search of Charlotte to rectify the wrongs of his past, his present, and those he'll never commit in the future.
LOST IN TRANSLATION is a funny idiosyncratic film that is as refreshing as it is unique, palatable, entertaining, and down-right enjoyable. Though the plot is far from complex, the philosophical platitudes and intriguing perspectives of the complexity of human emotion is extremely moving and persuasive in the film. Brining the inane rituals and over exuberance of cosmopolitan's vacuous lifestyle, LOST IN TRANSLATION takes Americans out of their environment only to throw them back into major post-modern urbania; only this time they can't understand a word being said. What was once a sacred country of primitive and spiritual customs has become a megalith of Western banality where the already cosmopolitan-precarious characters Charlotte and Bob are forced to not only endure, but survive the oppressive loneliness and void-like routine of their extended 'vacations' in Tokyo, Japan.
Tastefully done and brilliantly directed, LOST IN TRANSLATION fuses a sound and intriguingly appropriate and resonant sound track with great cinematography and art direction for a film that is ultra-modern and ultra-universal. The film is a 'drama' in the truest sense: don't expect any high action scenes or expensive special effects. Rather, LOST IN TRANSLATION relies on the transforming characterization of its two protagonists set against a background that, although at first foreign, eventually comes to offer an objective medium through which the two characters can interact and connect with one another. This delightful film is beautifully directed and is a visual and sensual splendor in that it satisfies the senses upon reflection, analysis, perspective, rather than fore-feeding audiences a mass-budget, action-packed vacuous blockbuster with nothing more than the surface content to offer. Sofia Coppolla should be proud.
LOST IN TRANSLATION won an Oscar for Best Writing, Screenplay and was the proud recipient of 66 other awards and 50 additional critical film association nominations.
Bill Murray plays Bob Harris, a U.S. movie actor in the midst of a mid-life crisis, hired to promote a Japanese Whiskey in Tokyo for several weeks.
Scarlett Johansson plays Charlotte, a neglected newlywed life struggling to fill her days with meaningful activities amidst the hustle bustle of the foreign city, Tokyo.
Akiko Takeshita plays Ms. Kawasaki, Bob Harris's Pesonal Assistant and Chauffeur during his stay in Tokyo, Japan.
Giovanni Ribisi plays John, Charlotte's husband who was hired to photograph high-profile celebrities in Tokyo, Japan.