26 February 2004

---My First Movie Review

IN A CAPSULE: This movie should have carried a warning. This is not a movie for everyone. Sure it was classified as R in the US and PG-13 here, but there ought to be a new classification employed for this one. This movie needs an ideal audience --- those who are sick of action scenes and explosions and those who are excessively filled with narratives that always lead to hot sex. It dissects the emotion of loneliness and the state of boredom such that by the end of the movie, you would be full of it.

The first thing I noticed before I watched LOST IN TRANSLATION was its movie poster. It was riddled with nominations and awards won for best picture, best director, best screenplay, best actor, and best actress. The award giving bodies named spanned the whole planet, from the US to Europe.

Its movie poster was so crowded only a 4th of it remained as the real promotional poster. That one-fourth is the sideview of the face of Scarlett Johansson, who plays the role of bored housewife Charlotte in the movie. Part of its marketing involves its awards and nominations, proclaiming loudly, "Hey man, you've got to watch me, I'm dripping with awards."

My advice: don't do it if you abhor boredom and loneliness. If you are adventurous and daring, then go right ahead, just don't blame me if you walk out unsatisfied and feeling robbed of your P130 bucks (or $9.50, if you're in the US).

In the movie, Johansson plays Charlotte, who just graduated from Yale with a degree in philosophy. She goes to Tokyo with her busy, busy photographer husband Lance Acord (played by Giovanni Ribisi). His hectic job makes him leave his wife alone in the hotel room quite frequently.

Bill Murray (whom I liked in Ghosbusters, Groundhog Day, Osmosis Jones, and The Royal Tenenbaums) plays Bob Harris, a middled-aged American actor paid $2M to do a Suntory whisky commercial.

The story revolves around a kindred connection between Bob and Charlotte, who both suffer from culture shock, and yes, from loneliness and boredom.

Charlotte, being a fresh philosophy graduate, does not know what to do with her life. Bob, on the other hand, suffering from middlelife crisis, is somewhat running away from his obsessive-compulsive wife who continues to call him in Tokyo to ask what carpet color and what type of shelf will they get for their house. Bob's marriage has gone stale for him and though he hates the culture-shock, he bears the burden and sees hope when he meets Charlotte.

One hour into the movie, all Bob and Charlotte can gather asking themselves is how they have ended up where they are. Fraught through a wildly different culture than their own and dealing with a staid language barrier, they are trapped in a forlorn pit so deep they can't climb out. However, when on their second run-in Bob and Charlotte lock eyes across their smoky hotel bar, the moment they share is not simply one of hopelessness between two Americans in a foreign setting, but something more. Sofia Coppola's sinewy and mentally clever screenplay never makes the audience yearn for the need to enter into a predictable romance between her two central lost souls, but allows the relationship to play out through a more natural set of developments. The result though as cherished, as gentle, and as sincere as any love story, does not cut as deeply as your usual romantic story.

New York Times film critic Elvis Mitchell praises Bill Murray's acting as "supplying the kind of performance that seems so fully realized and effortless that it can easily be mistaken for not acting at all." Hahaha. I would say Murray really was not acting at all. How does one exert effort acting out boredom? Geeez. Can it be that difficult? Does he get an Oscar for that? Mitchell answers my question by saying that Murray's acting is "bound to be recognized as a movie worthy of the kind of Oscar attention occasionally given to films that challenge audiences subtly."

Challenge audiences subtly?

Arrrggghh. It was sooo subtle I felt like vomitting.

My idea of watching movies is entertainment. If that definition has changed, because award-giving bodies would like to justify their selections, then I weep for them...as they would probably weep for me for not concurring.

Whatever message the movie was trying to convey was definitely lost in translation.

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