As an update to MamaT's earlier post on Lost in Translation in which she speculated that I would like this movie more than she did, I must tell you that she was sooo right on!
First of all, I know why this film has been nominated for four Academy Awards (Best Picture, Best Original Screenplay, Best Actor and Best Director). Lost in Translation is incredible and rewarding. Hey, itís incredibly rewarding.
I haven't laughed out loud this heartily in ... oh, I don't even know how long. And I haven't felt this sad for such unassuming characters in ages. In fact, I donít think Iíve cared at all for characters this unassuming. Translation is probably the best character-driven melodrama Iíve ever seen, and I assure you that Iím not in the habit of tossing out accolades. If I have any bias it comes from the fact that the comedy is extremely subtle . . . and, while it is a characteristic I simply do not possess, I adore subtlety. Also, Iíve always been intrigued by themes of isolation and itís actually refreshing to see such a sober theme done with heart and done well. It was also surprisingly metaphysical: both characters are lost in translation. They understand neither the Japanese culture nor the language and both characters are really lost, lost in more ways than one. Charlotte is emotionally and physically abandoned by her husband, while Bob just seems misplaced Ė both in his marriage and his career.
Make no mistake, Bill Murray earns his Oscar nod. This is the first time Iíve seen him actually acting like a bona-fide grown-up, and he's darn great at it. His character, Bob, is so ingeniously complex Ė dry yet gentle, sly but vulnerable. I couldnít help but wonder what his wife was missing. But thatís the beauty of this film; it brings home the fact that we are all so flawed, but essentially redeemable. Murray is not only witty, heís delightful and charming.
Scarlet Johansson, who plays Charlotte, is virtually a fetus when it comes to both age and acting, but it would be unfair to simply dismiss her ability because sheís really good. Perhaps her role doesnít appear all that demanding; regardless, she plays lost, nay disengaged, very well. I actually felt sorry for Charlotte and was somehow drawn to her -- she embodies Japanimation with her wide eyes and collagenized lips, that perpetual "baby" look that brings out the maternal in me, I guess. The fact that sheís a Yale graduate stumped me at first. But again, thatís the genius of the movie. That little nugget just proves that even smart people can make really stupid mistakes when it comes to love.
There is absolutely no doubt that the film was directed by a woman (Sofia Coppola Ė up for two awards, one for writing the screenplay and one for directing it). If Iím not mistaken this is only her second film. Itís an incredible argument for Nature over Nurture. The most uncomfortable scene is the strip club scene, but under Coppolaís direction, it is survivable and important. Bob's disinterest and disenchantment with the whole skin-show scene are palpable, and when he reaches out to steady the whore, itís pure compassion on his characterís part. No one but a woman could manage to direct that Ė no one but a woman would even think to write it. Whatís more, as MamaT pointed out, the main characters, while deeply drawn to each other, do not indulge in adultery. I can practically guarantee that if a man had directed Translation, theyíd have managed to get it onÖeven if they would have had to get rip roaring drunk in order to "trip" into it. No offense fellas, but you know it's true. Coppala makes sure you understand that what you're witnessing is a friendship, not lust. Yes, Bob is in the throws of a mid-life crisis and, yes, Charlotte, for all her learnin', has only a tentative grasp of the real world and is charmed by this older man's acumen, but this is camaraderie...born of necessity perhaps, but true nonetheless.
The icing on the cake? The score. I really want this soundtrack. The dream-pop lazy music is perfect for the heavy sigh feeling Bob and Charlotte roam around in most of the time.
In a word, Lost in Translation is brilliant.
And, for those of you who've seen the film . . . lip my stockin!