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LOST IN TRANSLATION , USA , 2003 , MPAA Rating : R for some sexual content

With LOST IN TRANSLATION, writer/director Sofia Coppola lives up to the promise of the potential she exhibited in GODFATHER III. This tedious vanity piece is enlivened only by the charm of its leading man, Bill Murray, and by the astonishingly haphazard way in which the film as a whole appears to have been slapped together.

Murray plays Bob Harris, an all but washed-up movie star who hit his peak in the 70s and pays the bills these days by making commercials in Japan. This is where the film is at its best, during those all too short interludes when Coppola is just letting the camera roll, allowing Murray as the bedraggled ex-star to interact with the Japanese and their culture, to riff freely with a sushi chef who speaks no English or a photographer who wants him to evoke Roger Moore's James Bond, not Sean Connery's. There is a palpable sense to Murray's Harris that he knows the joke is on him and that the best thing to do is go along with it, with all the dignity and grace the situation permits. There is to him a sad-eyed cynicism paired with a hard-boiled civility that is at once witty and tragic. He is a man who has given up goals in favor of the path of least resistance and not just professionally. His marriage has breathed its last, yet neither party has the energy to throw in the towel, each going their separate ways together with only the kids and carpet samples to keep them chatting.

Marriage woes are also the problem with Charlotte (Scarlett Johansson), the brainy wife of photographer Giovanni Ribisi. He's in
Japan to shoot a rock group, she's there to be unhappy. And in Johansson's performance, we see the extent of Coppola's talent as a director. Under her supervision, Johansson's grit has been worn to a bland smoothness and burnished to the sort of dull sheen that absorbs any energy reflected onto it. Even Murray's. Part of the problem, too, is how underwritten the part is. There is little for Johansson to do but look gloomy, sometimes while sitting by the window of her hotel room, sometimes while wandering tourist attractions, her steps as aimless as the direction the film takes whenever it thusly follows her. There is just nothing for Johansson to sink her talented teeth into. Even a night on the town with Murray singing karaoke turns into an Asian pub crawl where things happen for no good reason, the story is not advanced, and Johansson inexplicably dons a pink wig and then, just as inexplicably, sheds it.

By the time Bob and Charlotte have the requisite deep discussion about marriage and happiness, even they seem bored to narcolepsy by the proceedings. There's nothing left but for one of them to leave and when that finally happens, it's a farewell that drags on forever becoming more irksome with each passing moment that plods by with aching slowness.

LOST IN TRANSLATION would have been a terrific short featuring
Murray as the detritus of the film industry. I say short because there's not enough else going on in this film to merit its 109-minute running time and because it's never too late to go back into the editing room and come up with a winner.  


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Moviegoer Review
Leonardo (
This is the worst movie I´ve ever seen! It´s so slow... no, excuse me, actually nothing happens in the entire thing. I was just wishing for it to end. Generally, I like Miss Johansson´s movies, but this is just boring. The plot is as terrible as anything else in this motion picture, that didn´t actually have the "Motion".
Jason (
Thank you for your review. It's good to know I'm not alone in wondering why this movie is so loved.
I want a refund!! (TormentedViewer@ThisMovieSucks.UGH)
BORING and POINTLESS! It's basically two people (1 of whom-Bill Murray-has no pesonality whatsoever) who meet, become friends and just hang out throughout the entire movie. There's no romance, NOTHING! There are many strange, short scenes that should have been cut, and after they're done you go "what the hell was that for?" I kept watching, thinking it HAS to get better, but it never does. I like Bill Murray, but this was a BAD movie! I'd rather clean the theater floor with my tongue than have to watch this again. This was 1 hour, 40 minutes of my life I want back!!
Lucy (
The high paid critics thought this was a good movie??? My question is: Who's paying them? This was the most boring movie I remember seeing in a long time, if not ever! There was no story! Who wants to watch two people just mope around in a foreign country, just ambling around, nothing at all happening with any reason? Not me! Give me a storyline! Give me actors with something to say! Give me better movie critics!
david jones (
A great film. Requires patience because 'the film does not advance' is a criticism best suited for your average shoot-em-up action film. This is a film that gets at the inner reality of our lives when we drop the outer shell. Of course it has an underwritten quality about it - underwritten in words but in emotional wallop, it is written in full. We live in a dream and this film resides in that dream.
Paul Mehr (
Terrible. I hated Sofia Coppola in Godfather III and this movie confirms that she has no talent. I'll take Bill Murray in Groundhog Day or What About Bob any day of the week. Mostly I'm jealous because he lost so much weight and I'm about his age and can't keep 5 pounds off
Larry (
I found this movie boring, unfunny, and superficial. A clumsy patchwork of disconnected scenes, alternating between silly comedy and tedious, drawn-out attempts to convey the feelings of the two main characters, for whom I felt no empathy at all. Their dialogue on the bed about marriage was the most trite I've heard in a long time ("Does it get easier?" she asks. "Ooh, that's hard" he replies.) When the pointless scene with Bill Murray losing control of the exercise machine had everyone in the audience laughing except me, I felt as alienated as if I were in a movie theater in Tokyo.
Robert Lenz (
I don't understand why this movie was made. Two hours of my life that I will never get back.
S Forrester (
You're right on the nose. I find this movie tedious and trite and wonder what all the fuss is about.
F. Chan (
I have to say - the people who love this movie are either very patient and tolerant (and so they can stand those characters, and can even feel for them), or they are incredible bores who likes to think of themselves as "sooo deep" (and can therefore relate to the characters, particularly Charlotte). I can't even imagine ever being bored in Tokyo or Kyoto, so that much is lost on me right away. Bill Murray gave a hell of a performance and largely carried this piece, but whenever Charlotte is on the screen, I can't help but think of her as a Sofia Coppola clone. This is before I came back to the good old internet and read the rumours that she based that character on herself. Charlotte just reminded me of a certain girl in Godfather III (I loved the death scene near the end of that movie, by the way). It's almost as if Sophia told Scarlett Johansson to just act the way she would act. Besides, the "make things drag forever and forever! It's real artsy!" thing has been done to death. See "Wavelength". Or, for a movie that succeeds in moving at a slow pace without being just plain tedious (this is NOT "Lost in Translation"), try Fruit Chan's "Durian Durian".
Philippe (
Andrea, I never noticed you as a critic before. Usually I follow what the Boston Phoenix says or Usually they never disappoint me. But today you're the one I should have followed. Using the movie review query engine I clicked on your link only because you gave a 2.5/5 to the movie and I felt like I needed to read stuff from somebody who felt the same as I did. All other critics are saying this movie is great. I just don't get it. Thank you so much, I thought it was me. I found the movie condescendant, racist, xenophobic and more. From now on, I'm going to listen to what you have to say before I spend anymoney on a money. Philippe
Bonnie Baker (
wrong, had to appear to drag..when actually, the time added to the movie's is a drag when one is not sure what we are doing in 'it'.....and the contrast in the culture was made obvious in every scene.......loved this movie....alot to think about......alot!
Don Maines (
This movie sucked!!! A waste of time and fifteen bucks. Never again will I believe Roger Ebert or Christopher Lloyd. What film did they see?
Steve (
Murray's and Johansson's efforts are undermined by Coppola's.
Samantha (
I found this movie to be terribly boring and severly lacking. I was waiting for something interesting to happen, or the pace to pick up, but it never did. I completly agree with you, a waste of 2 hours.
amy alexander (
intelligent, sublime, subtle and witty, perhaps too much so for the mediocre-minded.
dave morris (
your review is right on the money
Naoma (
Your review captured the boredom of this film. The young woman looked pregnant; Murray's character, being married for 25 years had a very young child(?) All, in all, it gave a dismal portrait of Japan, a country I loved and where I was never bored -- unlike the female lead who sat around in her underwear and did nothing. She didn't seem very smart either --
Nancy Didion (
I was surrounded tonight by a theater full of awe-struck people who loved this movie (some even clapped). When I realized that I was alone with my luke-warm, kinda-bored response I felt a little embarrassed, like, "Uh-oh -- What did I miss?" Trying to explain to my friends and husband why I thought the movie was badly and cheaply directed was met with disbelief. Reading your review, Andrea, was a port in the storm. I kept yelling out, "EXACYLY! EXACTLY!" to all of your points of criticism. Thank you for being the articulate voice I needed tonight.

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