‘Lost in Translation’ is just two bored people in Japan who do nothing

'Lost in Translation'
Scarlett Johansson in 'Lost in Translation'
Scarlett Johansson in ‘Lost in Translation’

[rating=2]Starring: Bill Murray, Scarlett Johansson
Director(s): Sofia Coppola
Writer(s): Sofia Coppola

This is a great film, critics raved. Sofia Coppola has finally done it! She’s the first female up for Best Director because of this film! So I watched and tried to take it all in… I warn you, this is going to be more of a rant than a review.

love Bill Murray in every role he is willing to endure, including this over-the-hill actor filming whiskey commercials in Japan while fielding calls from his notoriously nagging wife. I can even stomach Scarlett Johansson’s portrayal of a lonely photographer’s wife, though I could have done without the close ups of her rear. But what I can’t stand is a lack of plot and a startling lack of direction.

If I wanted to watch two weirdos wander around Japan aimlessly, I’d probably videotape myself and a friend wandering around Japan aimlessly. At the very least, that would have been more interesting to me on a personal level.

There is a stagnant formula that most filmmakers seem to follow lately. Every other film that is churned out of the great Hollywood machine seems mechanical, unoriginal, and, pardon my paranoia, built to manipulate the audience in some way that has been psychologically perfected.

I applaud Coppola for going against the grain. I can say without a reasonable doubt that Virgin Suicides and Lost in Translation are unlike any other films I’ve ever seen. They were most certainly different. Original, even. But awesome in the grand scheme of things? Obviously, Coppola has something to say, but whatever it is, neither of these films convinced me to see things her way.

Bill Murray and Scarlett Johansson in 'Lost in Translation'
Bill Murray and Scarlett Johansson in ‘Lost in Translation’

Is Lost in Translation a melancholy film about an aging actor and a young woman hanging on to each other while trying to figure themselves out in this crazy world? In their case, specifically a world where they don’t understand Japanese? Yes. It is calculating in the way that it conveys the confusion of two Americans lost in Japan in scenes that are strung along like a careless home video.

But if Bill Murray weren’t headlining this show, would we care? Coppola fought for Murray to star in this film and indeed, he is the only part of the entire production that captivated me. In fact, through most of the film, Murray seemed entirely perplexed about how he had gotten himself in this predicament. How did he end up starring in Coppola’s mishmash love letter to Japan?

I just didn’t get it. And I know that people are going to hate me for saying this, but Lost in Translation was lost on me. And most of my friends. Could it be some sort of warped generation gap? Maybe we’re confused enough in our 20s that we don’t want to watch films about people are that are more confused than us.

The film is a study in absurdity, an interesting, almost refreshing change after a string of cinematic manipulations. Critically acclaimed and raved about like an understated film of epic proportions, Lost in Translation feels more like a jumble of scenes that should be thought-provoking but aren’t. Coppola’s heart was in it but she didn’t work hard enough to get at mine.

The widescreen format of the DVD boasts “a conversation with director Sofia Coppola and Bill Murray” that aims to be a little more intimate that your usual commentary. Besides standard deleted scenes, the “Lost on Location” featurette has exclusive footage from the filmmakers and Matthew’s Best Hit TV” is an extended version of the irksome Japanese TV show. A music video and a set of trailers round out the rest of the Special Features on the DVD.

Rated: R
Run Time: 1 hr., 44 mins. 

Aliza Hausman

A native New Yorker, Aliza Hausman is a freelance writer with an obsession for film who will watch anything for the sheer thrill of being entertained. See more at WWW.ALIZAHAUSMAN.NET.

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