If you haven’t seen Sofia Coppola’s masterpiece ‘Lost in Translation’ then don’t wait any longer. Bill Murray and Scarlett Johansson give wonderful performances that over 10 years later are still remarkable. Coppola work shines, showing that she is not just milking her family’s stature in the film industry (Her father wrote and directed the godfather trilogy) but is actually a born writer and director. Coppola has followed up her first film, The Virgin Suicides, with a minimalist romance which seduces the audience with its sharp writing and Oscar worthy performances.
Bill Murray plays Bob Harris, a man who is floating through limbo. He is an old movie star alone in Japan shooting a whiskey advert for $2 million dollars, thus distancing himself from his acting career and also his wife and kids. There is many comedic moments for Murray here (a scene where an escort tries to seduce an unknowing Bob Harris springs to mind) yet it’s the way that Murray underplays them that show’s his acting talent. Bob Harris is too tired, too sad and too disconnected to be outright hilarious, to be the life and soul of the party which we know he could be because of his Hollywood background. Its Murrays ability to show these bruises and wounds from Bob’s past, yet still remains funny, that makes this performance one of his best to date.
Bob Harris’s counterpart, Charlotte (Johansson) is easily 25 years younger than bob, yet there in the same situation. She also feels alone and isolated from the world, from her workaholic husband of two years and most importantly from herself. Watching Charlotte trying to find herself is sometimes difficult to watch After going to a temple and ‘feeling nothing’, we see her travelling through Tokyo doing as many activity’s as she can in order to find something to connect too, until of course she meets Bob.
Coppola is fearless in the way she lets Bob and Charlotte interact with each other and on their own. As they are two lost people trying to connect with something, there are many shots of Charlotte traversing Tokyo and interacting with the world, only to realize she isn’t really impacting the world at all. Together, we are able to see this relationship flourish in front of us, making us suspect some form of romance between the two of them, especially during a karaoke scene when Murray sings Roxy music’s ‘More Than This. When his eyes meet Johansson’s, there’s electricity between the two of that that can be felt through the scene. This electricity, this romance is never acted upon which is probably for the best, the idea that these two lost souls from different walks of life have connected to each other and are able to help each other is what their relationship is based on, if they were to become romantically involved it would drive focus away from the main point of characters and the film.
In her work on the Virgin Suicide, an adaptation of the Jeffrey Eugenides novel which even the most advance screenwriters would have trouble with; Coppola made the film feel girly, exploring womanhood and female sexuality more than the novel did. It’s clear she has grown since then, finding a perfect tone in Lost in Translation when she brings Charlotte and Bob together. While there may not be a lot of dialog in the film, every single word is essential. When Charlotte say’s to bob ‘I’ll miss you’ towards the end of the film, I can feel the pain of saying goodbye to someone special, someone who has helped you through a difficult time of your life. Even after my tenth viewing of the scene I was as heartbroken as the first. We watch these characters grow from being disconnected and jaded to fully dimensional people. When Bob has an affair with his wife, Charlotte is stung ‘im sure you had a lot to talk about, like growing up in the fifties’. But she is not stung with jealously, her respect and trust in the only person who has shown her any real attention since landing in Japan is shaken. Coppola ability to show all these feelings and characterization in a single line is incredible.
Bob and Charlotte’s time together always had a time limit, they need to return to their lives and figure out what they want: Bob to fix his career and Charlotte to make her husband notice and understand her. It’s an emotional goodbye, with bob whispering something unknown into Charlotte ear. The audience may never know what is said in that whisper, we don’t need too. It’s an intimate moment for just the two of them. Coppola’s whole film is an intimate as that whisper, hushed and silent but with a paramount of importance. With her expect screenwriting and directing, Coppola has created a movie that is appreciated ten years after its release, with platinum performances from Murray and Johansson.