Lost in Translation Review

Lost in Translation is a 2003 romantic dramady written and directed by Sophia Coppola. The film has received high critical acclaim, earning the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay in 2004.

Story
Two people in Tokyo, former actor Bob (Bill Murray) and house wife Charlotte (Scarlett Johansson), are just two lost souls looking for direction in their lives. They find solace in one another in the strange, hostile environments of Tokyo and their own lives.

There isn't much plot to the film, with it mostly focussing on the relationship between Bob and Charlotte. It's a slow burn, but that's what makes it work; by moving at a slow pace, it allows the relationship between them to blossom naturally. It's just nice to see these two people have a conversation with each other, since their personalities bounce off of the other so naturally.

The drastic location shift helps convey the feeling of being lost. Coppola uses the strange culture and unfamiliar location to make the audience feel as lost as the characters do. That way, even if we ourselves don't feel so lost in life as the characters do, we can understand how they must feel because we feel lost in the environment.

The characters of Bob and Charlotte are very different and what's interesting is how they show that in a subtle way. Bob is often seen in his hotel room or at the hotel bar, rarely ever going outside unless Charlotte invites him. This shows his desire for peace and solitary, away from his stressful home life and status as a D-list celebrity. Charlotte, on the other hand, is almost always outside, out and about in the city. This shows that she's an outgoing person and coincides with her search for some purpose in her life as she goes to Buddhist temples and arcades and clubs, desperately trying to find some side of herself beyond the wife of a photographer. As a college student, I found both of their journeys really relatable. Sometimes, you just don't know where you're going in life and aren't sure where to find answers.

The screenplay is really good, having earned that Oscar. It's very natural sounding, like something these characters would actually say and do. It's also really funny, which I wasn't expecting from a drama movie.

Technical
Part of the reason the screenplay works so well is because the actors are so good at delivering their lines. Scarlett Johansson, after having disappointed me in so many other projects, is continuing to impress with this and Her. Despite, well, looking like Scarlett Johansson, she really sells the lost housewife of her character, running the gambit of emotions from awkward to sad to outgoing and fun. I'm not usually a fan of Bill Murray, mostly because his deadpan brand of comedy doesn't work for me in most of the projects he's in. In this movie, however, it really works. It's mostly because the character is cast so well; deadpan Bill Murray as a snarky, washed out actor is the perfect combination. It works when he's doing serious roles because all he needs to do is keep a straight face and it works during the comedic parts, because you can tell the actors are being funny to distract from their problems or their pain, so it makes sense that he wouldn't be smiling when he's telling the jokes.

I like how Coppola does the transitions in this film; since Bob and Charlotte are on opposite sides of the city most of the time, she pans the camera over the city skyline, showing going from one character to the next. When working with multiple characters and a story that covers a big scope of land, it can be hard to seamlessly transition from one to the other and I think Coppola handled it nicely.

The camera is in a constant state of movement, though not without reason I believe. It's meant to symbolize the unsteadiness and instability of each character's life. It only seems to steady itself when the two of them are together, like when they first meet in the bar or when they're just talking.

What also changes when they're together is the lighting. When they're apart the lights are usually grey/white, showing the blase state of their lives. However, when their together, the lights become orange and warm, showing their affection for affection.

Their relationship is also shown through space between them. When they first see each other in the elevator, they're on opposite walls of the enclosure. When they meet at the bar, they're slightly closer to one another and on the same side of the counter. In the iconic shot of Charlotte with her head on Bob's shoulder, they're sitting right next to each other. Later on in the movie, they're sitting on opposite sides of a booth in a restaurant, representing a rift between the two. I really appreciate it when blocking helps the story like that. The blocking also shows the characters' relation to the city; Charlotte gazes at it longingly through her hotel window, longing to be part of it, but unable to find her place. Bob, on the other hand, rarely looks out the window or, again, even goes outside, symbolizing his want to leave the world behind.

The songs for the soundtrack are brilliantly chosen, being tonally perfect for their respective scene. When they're at a party, the music is fun and upbeat. When it's a sad moment, it's sweet and melancholy.

Summary: Though not what I was expecting, Lost in Translation is a perfectly told story of an intimate friendship and the solace that can be found in the ones you love, even when your life is upside down.

A

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