Next on Netflix: Culture shock
Everyone’s been in a situation where they feel like they don’t fit in. Maybe you’re at a family dinner where everyone is a different political party than you, or you’re the youngest kid in the class, or maybe your group of friends doesn’t get your love of Food Network (these may or may not be autobiographical examples). But anyone who has traveled to another country knows that culture shock is one of the most alienating things in the world. “Lost in Translation” captures the loneliness of being somewhere completely foreign—and the relief of having someone to relate to.
Bob (Bill Murray) is an American movie star past his prime who has come to Tokyo. He’s washed up, his wife nags him constantly even when he’s on the other side of the world and he’s only in Japan in the first place to film a whiskey commercial. He doesn’t speak Japanese, and it’s often hard to understand people even when they speak English. Fortunately, he meets Charlotte (Scarlett Johansson), a young and idealistic woman who is staying in the same hotel. Charlotte’s husband is a photographer who often leaves her alone, and she begins spending time with Bob instead. Over the course of the movie, the pair become good friends and explore Tokyo together.
A cliché ending to a movie like this would have Charlotte and Bob winding up as a couple and Charlotte giving her husband some impassioned speech about why Bob is a better man. But this movie is more like reality, which is ambiguous and uncertain and hopeful and a little sad. Though Charlotte and Bob are good friends, it’s clear that they wouldn’t make it as a couple. Bob is much older and his lifestyle is completely different, and their relationship is made that much more special because it’s brief and full of possibility.
At the end of the movie, Bob whispers something in Charlotte’s ear before they part forever. Did he confess his love for her? Did he give her some life advice? Was he telling her where some pirate treasure was buried?
It’s not clear, and it’s not meant to be.
What’s much more clear is how bad they both are at karaoke and how hard it is to take directions for a commercial when there’s a language barrier (Bob filming his whiskey commercial is easily the funniest scene in the movie).
It’s also clear that Scarlett Johansson has just as much substance as she has beauty, and that Bill Murray can sell you some whiskey even when he has no clue what’s actually going on.