Lost in Translation (2003)

“For relaxing times, make it Suntory time”

Sometimes a great actor who is typecast for such a large part of their career, often gets the hidden plaudits they possibly richly deserve in the latter years in their life. Bill Murray is the perfect example of this, an eighties comedy legend whose dry delivery made him the first point of call for parodic comedy movies, perhaps steering him away from roles that could showcase his ability. But it was his performance in 2003’s Lost in Translation that earned him a belated Golden Globe and Bafta for best actor, as well as a nomination for an Academy award.

Directed by Sofia Coppola, whose infamous and ill-fated performance in The Godfather III arguably also stunted an earlier positive response from critics, Lost in Translation tells the story of two people who develop a relationship whilst staying in the same hotel in Tokyo. Murray plays Bob Harris, an over-the-hill actor, whom is in Japan endorsing a very poor whiskey, whilst using the time to reassess his marriage and his place in this world. A young Scarlett Johansson plays Charlotte, whose photographer husband is wining and dining clients whilst she drifts bored about Tokyo looking for her own inspiration, a fitting juxtaposition to Harris’ busy and didactic schedule under the watchful eye of his over-zealous Japanese Entourage.


Sharing insomnia, Charlotte and Bob start to socialise on a level that is so, well, interesting. The age gaps makes the suggestion of romantic liaisons only hover under the surface like the shadow of a shark, and just when you think it possible, their body language resorts back to a more symbiotic father/daughter relationship that we can all recognise. Despite their lives being so polar, their problems are the same, as they live with decisions and choices that have defined them.

It is difficult to put your finger on where they are going as a pair, but that is because they do not know either. Nothing feels predetermined, which gives the whole movie its charm. The film teaches us that romance is incorrectly stereotyped in most films, where the characters simply act as puppets to cater for the emotional needs of the viewer. Sofia Coppola instead creates deep, layered and most importantly real characters and deserved her Oscar for best writing and original screenplay.

Shapstik Verdict: With enough subtle laughs to enjoy during Murray’s “Suntory” commercials, the slightly undramatic narrative is well hidden amidst the backdrops of Tokyo. The drama and suspense that surrounds so much of the mainstream cinematic realm is replaced by an understated and perhaps underrated example of how deep a writer can go in developing not just characters, but the relationships that define them. A film worthy of all the plaudits it deserves. 9/10

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