October 23 , 2003  
Volume 97, Issue 30  

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Facing uncertainty in Lost

By Maggie Wrobel
Gazette Staff

Lost in Translation

Starring: Bill Murray, Scarlett Johansson, Giovanni Ribisi
Directed by: Sofia Coppola

Gazette file photo
LOOKING TOWARDS THE FUTURE... both onscreen and off. Scarlett Johansson delivers a stellar performance in Lost in Transition.

You know that feeling you get waiting for the bus at the Natural Sciences Centre on a rainy day? That miserable, bordering-on-depression weight in the pit of your stomach that just gets heavier with the thought the only thing waiting for you at home is a box of Kraft Dinner and a mountain of untouched homework?

With Lost in Translation, director and screenwriter Sofia Coppola focuses on these exact feelings, but wraps them in a wistful, dreamy fog that somehow manages to romanticize the ambiguity of seemingly endless waiting. The film freezes a moment in time, acting as a series of gorgeous photographs bound together by the hesitant relationship between the two main characters.

Newfound ingénue (and Coppola look-alike) Johansson is Charlotte, a semi-newlywed waiting for her "real" life to begin. She is in her early twenties and spends her days sitting in a hotel room in Tokyo waiting to catch a glimpse of her rock photographer husband (a joyously infantile Ribisi) as he runs around taking pictures of trendy folk.

Charlotte has the kiss of death... er... a college degree in psychology under her belt and has dabbled in photography and writing while trying to find her "true calling in life." Murray plays Bob Harris, a washed up movie star trapped in the autumn of his years, who visits Tokyo periodically to shoot whiskey commercials. Bob's cold bitchy wife mostly communicates with him by fax, as her main concern in their marriage isn't if he's happy, but what shade of burgundy the carpeting in his office should be.

Together, Bob and Charlotte epitomize the similarities between the midlife crisis and the newly dubbed quarter-life crisis. The two evidently connect because of their shared fears and frustrations and the bustling cityscape of Tokyo relays the feeling of being in the middle of an almost unbearable amount of movement.

Murray's delicately moving performance is one for the Hollywood scrapbook of all-time greats, but the real surprise here is 18-year-old Johansson, who manages to hold her own against the well-marinated acting chops of a veteran like Murray. Lost is Coppola's second full-length feature (the first was her well-received 1999 adaptation of the novel The Virgin Suicides) and it announces her arrival in the big leagues of cinema with an elegant whisper instead of a brash bang.

The spirit of the entire film is captured in the character of Charlotte, who is widely rumoured to be based on Coppola herself. She's a dewy-eyed innocent with an old, worldly soul - she hopes something fulfilling will come her way, but has an underlying fear it won't - and thankfully, Coppola has the innovative skills to tell this familiar tale of uncertainty in a fresh, new way.



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