Sofia Coppola’s Lost in Translation is a film that I come to appreciate more with each viewing. Her story of fleeting human connection in a modern world has always struck a chord with me, due in large part to Bill Murray’s masterfully melancholy performance, but the film reveals itself to be a richer experience each time. Moments that once felt slight now carry an added resonance and interactions between characters feel more authentic. Coppola’s dreamy sense of mood and pace makes for a film that sticks with you.
Scarlett Johansson stars as Charlotte, a recent philosophy graduate tagging along with her photographer husband (Giovanni Ribisi) on his business trip to Tokyo. She’s like an aimless ship adrift in the luxury hotel where they’re staying, unable to sleep and unsure of her future. In the same hotel is Bob Harris (Murray), an erstwhile movie star in Tokyo to shoot a commercial for Suntory Whisky. He’s there for a distinct purpose, but any manufactured enthusiasm he musters while doing the commercial is washed away as soon as the cameras stop rolling. The distant voice of his longtime wife nags him about neglecting his family and picking out décor for a remodel over the phone.
Bob and Charlotte’s paths edge ever so closer slowly, and eventually the two settle into a companionship that is sweet, delicate and filled with genuine care — something that more than 90 percent of contemporary Hollywood romance films can’t lay claim to. Together, they break out of the shell out of the hotel to explore the city of Tokyo, which Coppola shoots with an irrepressible delight, and each one gives the other a reason to face the future with hope.
Murray is a revelation, allowing the audience the opportunity to see every crack in his exterior and proving that he’s no less charismatic in dramatic roles than he is in comedic ones. Johansson, whose career has taken turns for the underwhelming, nevertheless shows that she has a good performance in her, and she balances fragility and strength to great success here.