Monday, January 12, 2004

Lost In Translation 

I almost walked out of the theater in the middle of Lost In Translation, an act which for me has not occurred since 1982, when my high school friends and I decided to spend an evening of our first holiday break from college seeing Caligula.

What kept me in the theater (aside from my reluctance to concede defeat to The Girl's pre-viewing predictions) was that when I wasn't bored out of my skull to the point of saying "Oh, move it along" out loud, I was enjoying the movie. It was as if a very talented group of writers produced a set of hysterical sketches, then handed them over to a group of stoners to come up with a vehicle in which to showcase the sketches.

Lost In Translation follows Bob Harris (Bill Murray) and Charlotte (Scarlett Johansson) as they muddle their way through the downtime on their respective business trips to Japan. A large part of the tale is spent demonstrating how bored, alone and unable to sleep they each are. Their boredom was most definitely not lost in translation. It reached out from the screen and dragged me into its web.

The film comes to life when Bob and Charlotte interact, either with each other or on their own with the people they meet. The scene in which the highly animated and extensive instructions given by the director in Japanese for the commercial Bob is shooting are conveyed as "More energy" by the staffer assigned to translate as well as Bob's appearance on a local Japanese youth-oriented talk show are fabulous, and Bob's solo venture into the hotel's gym had my laughing uncontrollably. And I really mean uncontrollably - I tried to stop and couldn't, to the point I thought I would pass out from lack of oxygen. On the more introspective side, the quiet scene with Charlotte wandering in to a flower arranging class, and the day trip to Kyoto were entrancing.

But these wonderful moments were linked together with overly long scenes, such as Bob clicking through the TV channels in his hotel room at 3 am. I was reminded of About Schmidt, another movie which I would have enjoyed if the silent scenes in which we watched Jack Nicholson driving or staring at a clock had been edited down a bit.

I'd highly recommend this movie once it comes out on DVD, or if you can Tivo it off of cable. That way you can rapid-fire through the slow scenes once you've gotten the idea (you'll know it's time when you shout, "I GET IT" at the screen), and replay the good scenes over and over.

Reality Check: The Girl didn't want to see it, would have run from the theater if I had suggested it, and responds with, "Uck - it was AWFUL" when asked.

Posted by Beth Henderson at 8:31 AM