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"Lost in Translation"

Directed by Sofia Coppola.
Written by Sofia Coppola. 
Starring Bill Murray, Scarlet Johansson and Giovanni Ribisi.
Release Year:  2003 
Review Date:  10/21/03 


I have been excited to catch this one for a while now, but I must admit, I am a bit disappointed with the end result.

"Lost in Translation" stars Bill Murray as Bob Harris, a famous American actor that finds himself in Tokyo doing an ad campaign for a Japanese whiskey maker for $2 million instead of working on his regular craft.  His career seems a bit of a question mark, as is his fading interest in his family back in the US.  While in Tokyo, he meets Charlotte (Scarlet Johanssen), the wife of a famous photographer (Giovanni Ribisi) from the States that is essentially along for the ride while her husband is off on business throughout Tokyo.  Bob and Charlotte strike up an unlikely friendship…blah blah blah.

Have you seen "The Virgin Suicides"?  I only saw it because I had read the book, and I thought the film based on the book was awful.  Some of its biggest problems came in its tone--it was often too quiet, and with a soundtrack by French artists Air, the film just lulled me to sleep a couple of times, which I imagine was not the intention of director Sofia Coppola.  Well, I saw a lot of similarities with "Lost in Translation", not surprisingly directed by Coppola…and, "Lost in Translation" literally put me to sleep a couple of times while characters were walking around doing nothing.

In fact, many of the scenes featuring Charlotte touring around Tokyo when she is not hanging out with Bob were the main culprit in my movie-induced sleepytime.  Murray is excellent in the film, exhibiting a different kind of charm that I hadn't really seen since maybe "Ghostbusters" back in 1984.  His Bob felt very real, and I liked that Coppola (who also wrote the film, based in part on her time spent living in Tokyo) didn't stereotype his American film star character.  His feelings on his family were interesting, his reactions to calls from his wife or seeing himself on a large billboard didn't feel clichéd…in all, this is Murray's best shot at an Oscar nomination, and I can't say I'd be surprised to see it.

I was not all that big a fan of Johannsen's performance, though; I can't say that it wasn't accurate or that she wasn't charming, it just was not that interesting to me.  A phone call she makes to someone back in the US early in the film seems very emotional to her, but I never really got a hold of why she fell in with the Ribisi character in the first place.  As I mentioned, her scenes without Murray put me to sleep twice, causing me to miss a key part of why Ribisi seems to not be around late in the film.  The soundtrack for the film contributes to this; I am sure that Coppola has an eclectic musical taste, but some of the music seemed out of whack for some of the scenes in "Lost in Translation."

But, there are a lot of good things in the film that are worth checking out.  I don't know if you need to see this kind of film in theaters; I am sure it would be more intimate if you catch it on video.  Here's to hoping that Murray takes on more of these roles that can mix his charm and comedic touches as he moves out of broad comedy films.

Rating:  Matinee


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Bellview Rating System:

"Opening Weekend":  This is the highest rating a movie can receive.  Reserved for movies that exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development, setting...or Salma Hayek.  Not necessarily in that order. 

"$X.XX Show":  This price changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently, it is the $9.50 Show.  While not technically perfect, this is a movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.  "Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca", but you'll have a great time watching.  The $9.50 Show won't win any Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see "Office Space"). 

"Matinee":  An average movie that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.  Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about yourself.  A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave the theater saying "That wasn't too, did you see that Lakers game last night?" 

"Rental":  This rating indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one."  Mostly forgettable, you couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the video store was out of copies of "Ronin."  If you can, see this movie for free.  This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a half stars." 

"Hard Vice":  This rating is the bottom of the barrel.  A movie that only six other human beings have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen.  A Shannon Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a movie.  Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or "Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!  (Warning:  strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard Vice"-rated movies.)

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All material by Justin Elliot Bell for SMR/Bellview/ except where noted
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