Lost in Translation
***.8 GM
Starring: Bill Murray, Scarlett Johansson, Giovanni Ribisi, Anna Faris


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So much is made these days of the obnoxious Hollywood Older Male being cast opposite a Pretty Young Thing Young Enough To Be Their Daughter - I'm guessing the utterly skewed perceptions caused by the celebrity culture and how many Pretty Young Things are drawn to fame and fortune like ants to a dead bird is part of the reason for this absurdity. Somewhere down deep, these movie people have to realize that there's NO way a guy like Clint Eastwood in True Crime could possibly have a chance with Mary McCormack in a bar unless he was Clint Goddamned Eastwood, y'know? If he was just some incredibly craggy-assed guy at the end of the bar, he'd be constantly late for everything because no one would give him the time of day. Even clocks would avoid him. The fact that all these Hollywood biggly-wigglies have trophy girlfriends has, perhaps, clouded their sense of truth to the point where they actually start to think their balding, overweight sleazeball asses wouldn't have to be high-powered entertainment moguls to land these types of women. Perhaps they've forgotten what I assume must be the First Rule of Fame: You Can Never Trust A Compliment Again.

There's a long line of old-and-busted guys cavorting around the screen with beautiful young leading maidens, and rarely is the actual age difference dealt with in any way that approaches reality. So when a movie like "Lost in Translation" comes along that deals with a friendship between an older man (Bill Murray) and a younger woman (Scarlett Johansson) in an honest and simple manner without all the absurd trappings that usually accompany such a thing, it can really strike a chord that resonates quietly but truthfully within.

Murray is Bob, a seemingly mid-level veteran actor who has come to Tokyo to film a whiskey commercial (American celebrities filming commercials in other countries that they'd never do in America is a common practice - hunt down some of Schwarzenegger's seminal work in that regard - there is a hoot to be had) and to get away from his wife for a few days. It's not really what he wants to be doing, but it's a living. He spends most of his time in the hotel bar.

Johansson is Charlotte, a young wife who has accompanied her celebrity photographer husband John (Ribisi) to Tokyo and is basically left to loiter around the hotel room while he works. It's not really what she wants to be doing, but she's having a hard time figuring out exactly what she DOES want to do. She spends most of her time staring out of her hotel room window.

Eventually, Bob meets Charlotte at the bar late one lonely night. Over the week that they're there, they joke a bit with each other, find a little common ground, then realize that they've found the only people in town they can relate to, and thus start hanging out a bit, doing goofy things, having deep conversations and being surprisingly on the same wavelength about a lot of things. The trip to Tokyo becomes a bonding experience, and their desire to get out of there as soon as possible soon becomes a desire not to ever leave.

The most refreshing part of this movie is that it doesn't bog itself down with the sexual baggage - it's almost completely a non-factor. This is just a really strong friendship that blossoms between two people who really don't have much business being friends, and that's part of the beauty of it. It's a slowly-paced movie, with great music and impressive use of silence and mood to get a point across.

Bill Murray is always just great. He's playing a tweaked version of the Bill Murray we all know and love, and he's utterly likeable, funny and charming. This is the kind of older guy I can totally see a younger woman fostering a bit of an interest in. Scarlett Johansson also definitely plays the type of young woman that could conceivably like an older man, or at least hang out with him, which is pretty much the extent of their relationship. She exudes an intelligence beyond her years (Ghost World, baby) and in the state Charlotte is in, the companionship of one of life's veterans has an understandable allure to it.

It's a beautiful movie, it's elegantly shot and, apparently as intended, it makes a great postcard for Tokyo.

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