Enervated platonic lovesick sing-along

     “Lost in Translation,” with Bill Murray and Scarlett Johansson, is a great film.
     They raise the film into being a contender for movie of the year. Also worthy of noting is the fantastic job their cinematographer Lance Acord did in instilling each frame of the film with not only warmth but also the isolation needed to convey what it feels like to be the main characters.
     This is director Sofia Coppola’s sophomoric effort-the first being the dreary, “Virgin Suicides”-and she has grown into the shoes of being a director quite well. I’ve yet to see her prove herself by going out on a limb with a feature but she does play well to her strengths. This film is one of extreme restraint and subtle nuance written by Sofia herself she knows what she can excel at and it’s all here.
     The basic story is a week in the lives of two people who meet and carry on together because of their initial connection. For Bob (Murray) and Charlotte (Johansson) Tokyo is another planet and they are just visiting. Drawn to each other at first because of their common bond-they’re American, unappreciated, lonely, and insomniacs-they stay together because they come to realize that there’s a deeper connection based on what they do with each other.
     Essentially if the film had been titled, “Jet Lag,” it would have been equally fitting to what the story is.
     This film is clean and succinctly written movie. Coppolla created a world of static and noise and directed it so Japan is always in the background but still overbearing. For the characters Japan, its people, and buildings all hum like a refrigerator. The strongest part of the script is that it flows well, like its writing itself. It contains a reality that is rarely seen in commercial films. Coppolla just took emotions and reactions and put it to word: it’s simplicity but only the best kind.
     The main reason that this film works well is because of its cast. They take an above-average film and turn it into something magical. Without the strength of the principal cast we would not have had such a classy film. They elevate the film by grounding it in reality.
     First there is Bill Murray as Bob Harris, a big American actor whoring himself out to a Japanese liquor company. Casting Murray in this role is the best element of the film. He is one of the greatest living actors and should be respected as such. His sense of comic timing is well known but few have explored his depth. He can take a silly karaoke scene and make it the pinnacle of what the movie is trying to convey. The wonderful thing about him is that he gives so much context and relevance to every scene he’s in. At one point in the film he says, “The more you know who you are, and what you want, the less you let things upset you.” But his deadpan delivery mixed with look on his face elicits laughter and compassion. You laugh with him all throughout the movie but only because he realizes how funny the sadness in his life is and you get to see it too.
     Then there is Scarlett Johansson as the newly, unhappily married Charlotte. Her character is forced to spend her days living in a hotel room while her unconcerned husband is out all day working on assignments as a photographer. Many, times we are shown just how beautiful Charlotte is but her husband does not see it. Johansson has always been a great actress to me, but her portrayal of Charlotte in this film raised my stock of her ability. Her grasp of nuance is stunning. She spends the whole movie alongside Murray and is able to hold her own. She is even able to steal a few of the scenes that she is in.
     This film is, in many ways, a celebration but not in the traditional sense. It celebrates life by showing it for what it really is. It celebrates human fault. You will see in this movie: love, infatuation, pain, isolation, appreciation, desolation, despondency, and fabricated feelings.
     Going to see this film will probably do one of two things to your soul. Either you will be reminded of a time when you could not acknowledge your feelings for what they were. Or you will realize that you are still there in a place where you can not commit to your own happiness. Whichever side of the fence you are on I think that there is much to enjoy about this film.
     If you are willing to pay attention, this film has a labyrinthine of information. It is so rich that I suggest you see it twice just to pick up on any subtleties you probably missed the first time. So to close, I not only recommend this film but I insist you take in multiple viewings of it.