movie review: lost in translation

On to happier subjects. And yes, I know more people urged the novel subject, but I didn't want to do it while the trolls are still bothering us. But, yes, I am considering NaNo, although I have deep concerns about my ability to write fiction. But I do want to talk it out a bit, and I'll get to that eventually.

So, I went to see Lost in Traslation over the weekend. I actually really liked Sofia Copella's first film, The Virgin Suicides. I really liked the subtle and sure way she tells the story. Most directors, even good ones, feel the need to be horribly blunt in their films. Basically, they've been taught to assume their audience is painfully stupid. Which sucks for those of us who managed to get past 1st grade. The worst of them are just completely insecure in their ability to tell a story that they keep pausing to reiterate points that probably could have been left unsaid to begin with. They don't feel like anything can be left for question. Sofia is clearly well versed in the genre of film and has a lot of courage and conviction to tell her stories in such a subtle and often unstated manner. I don't know if some people are annoyed with some of the quiet, often silent, scenes in her movie, but I loved it. It created a really beautiful atmosphere that allowed the characters to become very real. I loved that not every scene was a slave to plot. I loved that the "plot" itself was prefectly clear. Even when it was doing things that could be cliche, it didn't conclude the way it might seem. The cliches became deconstructed. The movie was both slow and frenetic, creating a real sense of the spark between the two lead characters but having patience to show their affection and frame it with the swiftness with which they take to each other. They let the relationship not fall into any preassumed concepts, while touching on them all. Its not quite a friendship, not quite a love affair, not quite a father/daughter thing. It does all this without falling into any of the traps of those concepts, while still getting to explore elements of them. It shouldn't have worked. I mean, as a rule I'm very disinterested with these older man, VERY younger woman deals, but this just worked for me.

I was quite impressed with Scarlet Johansson playing Charlotte. I liked her in The Man Who Wasn't There but this film obviously gives her more to work with. She's got a very natural charm and she plays off other actors so well. Really looking forward to seeing a lot more from her, especially since she's really young.

In the supporting cast, Giovanni Ribisi does a really good job playing Charlotte's husband. He really found the right balance, matching Bill Murray's unseen wife in being unsympathetic and sympathetic at the same time. You understand the lead character's disenchantment without hating their respective spouses, which I thought was a very daring but effective choice. It made me respect the story a lot more to not just demonize the spouses. You've also got Anna Faris playing a thinly valied send-up of Cameron Diaz. Her ditzy and oblivious actress was very well done. She wasn't just a dumb blonde. I mean, she was dumb and a blonde, but it wasn't a one-note thing. At her best, she was harmlessly oblivious. At her worst, moronically self-important. It was a nice little dynamic, but I was puzzled a bit that her movie star had no significant interaction with Bill Murray's movie star.

Ah, Bill Murray. Great work. Perfect balance between comic and staight-man. Murray is really an underrated straight-man, and it really shines here. He doesn't do that fuction as a befuddled type of straight man who just sets up the joke. Rather, he acts as a kind of eye of the hurricane, remaining calm while a lot of absurd stuff goes on around him. But, not as if he was overwhelmed by it all, but rather confident and bemused. He also flashes his comic skills at a number of points. He's got a great dead-pan delivery that really sells the character rather than concentrating on the joke to the expense of his portrayal. He manages this all with ease. He also shows a lot of sincerity and depth in his interaction with Charlotte. Murray is also a very underrated actor, and I hope he gets a richly deserved Oscar nod with this role. He was robbed for Rushmore, which probably was a better chance since it was a supporting role, but I do think his performance is better here and I hope he can power out some notice.

I really strongly recommend this film. The visuals are wonderful and the story is refreshingly intelligent and quietly told. I really enjoyed it and am looking forward to Sofia Coppela establishing herself as one of the great American writer/directors. It does seem funny, though, that she may well be the talented one in her family.

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