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Lost Over Lost in Translation

Tuesday, February 17 2004

After a lot of anticipation, Carrie and I saw Lost in Translation a weekend or two ago and were completely baffled about why it’s been getting good reviews. Seriously, I don’t think it’s a very good movie.

To me, a good movie accomplishes at least two things: it exposes me to something I have little knowledge of, like a sub culture, or freakish human behavior, a religion, a sport, or something that piques my interest. The story has to engage me, either by making me laughing, making me think, tricking me, or tieing me up emotionally. If it can teach me something about human nature along the way, I give bonus points.

The second requirement is that it has to be a finely crafted movie. The writing has to be good, the cinematography has to be good, the editing, the score, the title screens. Every detail surrounding the movie has to convince me that a huge amount of talent and hard work went into making the movie, and that the interest of those behind the movie wasn’t simply to get my money – it was to make a good movie.

Lost in Translation doesn’t really meet either of those requirements for me. I think the character development is shallow, and only slightly interesting. The acting itself isn’t bad per se, but there’s really nothing there. Bill Murray and Scarlett Johansson just sort of allude to some sort of depth, but never fully get into it.

The city of Tokyo is obviously a character in the film, but again, it’s not portrayed as being a deeply intricate and complicated character. While the city is portrayed as colorful and vibrant, the focus still remains on the main characters, and the city itself seems to be robbed of the depth that could have been portrayed.

I also don’t feel like a mountain of talent went into making the movie. I don’t think the look of the movie is all that interesting, and for the most part looks like standard movie fare. There are some moments where the composition of the frame looks interesting, but could be better, deeper.

I respect also that the movie could have been designed to be as free of depth as it is, but I suspect it wasn’t because there are too many moments where it tries to get deep but fails. The pivotal conversation on the bed where Bill Murray’s character reveals that “life is hard, but you end up having kids that turn into the most delightful people you will ever meet” is about the deepest the movie gets.

Roger, I have to give this movie a thumbs down.