Lost in Translation (2003) – Film Review

Lost in Translation

Starring Bill Murray and Scarlett Johansson 

Written and directed by Sofia Coppola

IMDB Rating: 7.8

Review written by Rachel Geiger

It’s been nearly 11 and a half years since this movie was released. Despite this, the relatable plot, characters, and the theme of loneliness is relevant regardless of how many years have passed. This is a visually beautiful movie filled with an equally incredible soundtrack that truly works with this film.

Bob Harris (Bill Murray) is an aging American actor visiting Tokyo in order to film a booze commercial so he can rack up some much needed cash. Charlotte (Johansson) is a recent Yale graduate who is in Tokyo with her famous photographer husband. Her husband is frequently leaving her by herself in the hotel room so eventually, she becomes fascinated with Bob. The two begin to strike up a friendship as they navigate the city through karaoke and many different parties and bars. Two lonely people who come together and become a little less lonely in the process of doing so.

The plot is a pretty basic one and a lot of people complained that nothing happened in this movie. Yes, there’s a lot of spaces in the movie where no dialogue is happening. However, that’s also the time when you stop and listen to the beautiful music that’s throughout the movie. One of my favorite aspects of the plot is the double meaning behind the title, “Lost in Translation.” Bob and Charlotte are both lost on a literal level, they are both in a foreign country where they speak hardly any Japanese and have no clue where they are going. It also is the two feeling lost in their own lives and where their futures are heading. It may not have a complex plot, but the plot is still very intriguing and fun to watch.

There are other characters in the movie besides Bob and Charlotte but it doesn’t really feel like it. It seems strange that Bill Murray and Scarlett Johansson would have such good chemistry considering the huge age difference, but somehow it definitely works. Bill Murray is pretty well known for playing bitter characters (Groundhog Day, hello) but this one still manages to stand out due to how real it feels. He’s just naturally navigating his life and struggling with his marriage and children. He desperately wants to be young again and you can feel that desire throughout the entire movie. Johansson was only 18 when she played this role, Charlotte is supposed to be 25. But Scarlett has a look and presence about her that is beyond her years. Her character stands out when she lets loose and has fun. The karaoke scene where Charlotte sings “Brass in Pocket” by The Pretenders is one of my favorites since we see Charlotte liven up a bit. The acting is really what makes the movie worth watching.

Sofia Coppola is the daughter of Francis Coppola, who directed the Godfather movies. So right out the gate, Sofia had a lot of attention on her. Her approach to this movie shows her strength and potential as a director. This was only her second full length feature film. She used her original ideas and brought them to life due to her love for Tokyo. She did a great job showcasing the beauty of the city and it’s pretty much impossible to not want to go to Tokyo after seeing this movie. Coppola focuses on the little details as she makes her story come to life on screen. She won an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay and it’s not hard to see why – she’s a phenomenal writer and her directing style is precise and intimate.

To put it simply, this film is a love story. It’s a love story about Tokyo, a place with such beautiful buildings and it’s just an all around stunning place to film a movie. It also shows a love story between two people that have such tension and built up passion but who are unable to be together. That may seem like something that would be weirdly uncomfortable to watch. But the innocence and youthfulness of both Murray and Johansson is very much there, regardless of age. Due to all of these reasons and more, Lost in Translation is a movie worth watching at least one time in your lifetime.