Look I’ve never been to Japan, and I was in love once but she never returned it back. In reflection going to a foreign country sounds better than getting your heart sliced in half. However I still can relate to Lost in Translation partly due to the two main characters: Bob and Charlotte, two wandering souls in Tokyo for different reasons; each have spouses which keeps them from having anything other than a purely emotional relationship. From my limited experience those are rather satisfying, although I’m guessing that sex despite including complications is fun, too. Regardless Charlotte has that “What the hell am I doing?” post-college problem that most people her age experience (myself included), and Bob suffers from a rather obvious mid life crisis. I’ve never had a mid life crisis although there are three crisis situations people go through in life: the first being falling in love with someone from the opposite sex and going through the emotions involved, the second one consisting of attempting to find purpose in life, and the last one actually being a mid-life crisis.
I’ve experienced the first two, and I’m not looking forward to the last one even though if I’m lucky I’ll be Bill Murray stuck in Japan with Scarlett Johannsson in a foreign city where I drink at the bar every night. Worst things could happen to people, and its at the bar, dressed in a ridiculous tux he was forced to wear for a commercial shoot, sits Bob Harris, drowning his problems in alcohol (something I know all too well-the booze, I mean). A young woman he noticed in the elevator during his first day in Tokyo sends him over a drink, and he toasts her. Thus begins a wonderful yet fragile relationship between one person beginning her life and the other one seeing his winding down. Really the movie does consist of two people wandering around Tokyo (and in Charlotte’s case, Kyoto) which after the 30 minute mark I was fine with. The film itself slowly grows on you, particularly after the pair strike up their platonic friendship and wander out into the sky lit Tokyo nightlife.
Several of the movie’s set pieces are rather important, and I’ve already mentioned the first one. Far more crucial is the party scenes, where Bob and Charlotte hang out, drink, get high and even singing karaoke. Clearly you have not witnessed film magic until you watch Bill Murray crooning in monotone, yet it leads to a moment between the pair that showcases properly Murray’s ability to show emotion through his facial movements despite being known primarily for his physical comedy and ability to spit out witty one liners. A cigarette is shared, and his shoulder is used as a pillow, a reminder that neither of them have gotten any sleep during their stay, perhaps due to being restless about their station in life.
Naturally Bob’s drinking has consequences, and he almost throws away a beautiful friendship with Charlotte due to his inability to reign in his more destructive impulses. This after a casual second night spent together consisting of drinking and eating Japanese food while watching some random movie on TV in Bob’s hotel room, ending with Charlotte picking Bob’s mind on marriage and kids, topics she knows very little about. I was reminded largely of In The Mood For Love, another film about two people involved in relationships brought together by interesting circumstances, and how they were tempted to achieve more than simply the pleasure of each others company: talking, sharing food, being merely friends instead of more.
Much has been made about what Bob says to Charlotte near the end, yet I really am indifferent in regards to the mystery, focusing instead on the pure tenderness and raw bittersweet emotions coming from two people who for a short time grew close to one another. Even though I feel the movie took a bit too long to achieve liftoff (a few early scenes could have been cut) this is still an excellent movie, a compelling take on love and people. One thing most of us have learned is that people are the most important thing in life, and the only aspect we truly remember. Well that and the shot of Charlotte’s rear end at the beginning. I won’t forget that.