A review of “Lost in Translation” by Jeanne Aufmuth


Stars: ****

Rating: R for language, adult situations

Run Time: 1 hour, 45 minutes



Bill Murray gives the performance of a lifetime while navigating the treacherous waters of cultural dislocation and romantic regret.

Washed-up American movie star Bob Harris (Murray) is in Tokyo to pick up a quick $2 million for pitching Suntory whiskey to the natives.  Lost in a fog of jet-lag and personal problems, Bob finds himself struggling with the language, the people, and his ability to sleep.  Residing at the same swanky digs is Charlotte (Scarlett Johansson), the young Yale-educated wife of up-and-coming celebrity shutterbug John (Giovanni Ribisi), on assignment to shoot a hot Japanese rock band.  Left to her own devices, Charlotte is coming face-to-face with the sorry fact that her marriage may be a mistake.

Two wounded souls, wandering the halls of Tokyo’s Park Hyatt Hotel with an aura of unspoken yearning.  Initially, Bob and Charlotte’s meetings are brief and unassuming – in the elevator, the hotel bar, and at the gym swimming pool.  A karaoke night here, a sushi restaurant there, and the pair find themselves with an unexpected bond based on loneliness, need, and sleep-deprived flirtation.

Sofia Coppola is a filmmaker of immense maturity.  Her “Virgin Suicides” was an ode to the delusional state of longing and the clarity of innocence.  Johansson brings a similar serenity to her young protagonist, refreshing pabulum for Murray’s palpable desperation.

The pleasures of kinetic rapport are punctuated by genuine laughs at the expense of cultural differences.  Language barriers, unfamiliar foods and technological sensory overloads are in-your-face reminders of the frustrations of negotiating foreign territory, yet serve to connect two characters drawn together by their very American sameness. Subtly realized and finely nuanced, “Lost” is fresh and unspoiled filmmaking.