Loneliness is a universal human condition.
Some people go through life trying to grab onto something or someone that will put an end to their inner melancholy.
Lost in Translation is a film about two such people.
Bill Murray stars as Bob Harris, a washed-up 1970’s action star who has traveled to Tokyo to shoot commercials for a whiskey company, but spends most of his free time drinking and hating life.
Charlotte (Scarlett Johansson) has traveled to Japan with her photographer husband John (Giovanni Ribisi) because she doesn’t have anything better to do back home after graduating from college.
Murray and Johansson eventually develop a friendship, none of which is groundbreaking, but the delight of watching the movie is seeing these two find a kindred spirit in each other.
The film somehow manages to be almost entirely perfect.
In only her second feature film, Sofia Coppola has created something that is both sad and exceedingly beautiful.
This is a career performance for Murray. He excellently portrays a three-dimensional character that is more complex than his typical wiseguy persona.
If Murray is overlooked for an Oscar, something is wrong with the Academy. Johansson does a very convincing job of conveying the emotions most college graduates seem to experience while trying to figure out what they should do with their lives.
Coppola’s script also does a fantastic job of avoiding conventions. Most mainstream Hollywood movies would have these two dump their spouses for each other in no time.
Coppola realizes, however, that age and lifestyle differences will prevent these two from ever being more than friends.
This isn’t a movie about love. It is a movie about finding someone to share your life with, even if only for a brief period.
Lost in Translation is not easy to watch, and the last 20 minutes of the film are especially sad, but it is one of the best films of 2003.
Chuck DelRoss can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org