Lost in Translation
- compiled by Jeffrey Overstreet Copyright Christianity Today International
- 2003 1 Jan
Bob Harris (Bill Murray) is an American celebrity in Tokyo to film a whiskey commercial. He's lonely, dislocated, unhappy, and having a hard time communicating with his wife over the telephone. When he meets Charlotte (Scarlett Johansson), the lonely wife of a workaholic American photographer, they strike up a friendship based on their mutual dilemma. Their uniquely intimate (but fortunately not sexual) relationship slowly guides them to a place of new insight, an invigorated of hope, and adventurousness. It may even prepare and equip them for their futures as spouses.
Directed by Sofia Coppola (
Many religious press critics are moved and delighted by the picture. Stef Loy (The Film Forum) says
Loy adds that Coppola has found "a style all her own. There are so many beautifully crafted shots that one is astounded at the magic of cinema. [This] could very well be the best film to hit mainstream audiences this year. It reminds us of the basics of great filmmaking: a well written script with great actors and gifted filmmakers aiming to entertain, inspire, probe, and ultimately challenge."
Michael Leary (The Matthews House Project) says, "[The film] is about the way people find homes in each other, an experience that in contemporary urban society is a familiar bedrock of meaning. In an endless city filled with what for them are empty signs and meaningless interactions they find a language game of their own to play."
J. Robert Parks (Phantom Tollbooth) calls the film "Murray's finest hour. His way with a glance or a simple gesture is pure poetry. Murray's performance reminds us of our own mortality and confronts us with our own choices. Are we sliding through life, lost in the neon glitter, or are we breaking down the barriers that separate us from true communication, true communion?"
David DiCerto (CNS) says it balances "poignant drama and lighthearted comedy, painting a tender and layered portrait of both physical and emotional isolation and effectively capturing the sense of being a stranger in a strange land."
Movieguide's critic spoils all of the movie's surprises including the ending (Beware!), and then gets technical: "Coppola is clearly a talented filmmaker, but her first two movies avoid the classic three-act structure that most great movies possess: a beginning, middle, and an end. It seems to lack a dramatic premise that carries the story through to a convincing, captivating climax."
I disagree with this assessment. The story begins with two lonely hearts setting up in the same hotel and whiling away their days on the edge of despair. The story has a middle, in which they meet and strike up a friendship that re-invigorates their mood, their minds, and their hope for a brighter future. The conclusion sends them off enlightened by their experiences, their friendship, and their sexual restraint. For me, that's a "dramatic premise" that indeed "carries the story through to a convincing, captivating climax." In fact,
Manson also reviews
Elsewhere, Dick Staub (CultureWatch) caught up with the Sofia Coppola's Oscar-nominated