Well, I’ll be the odd one out: I don’t really like ‘Lost in Translation’.
I won’t contest that the movie has been very well-directed, that the acting is excellent and the relationship between the characters is always believable. I also agree that the feelings of ennui and estrangement are conveyed very well. Yet, there are two aspects of the film, which just rub me the wrong way.
My first problem with ‘Lost in Translation’ is its depiction of Japan, Japanese culture and Japanese people. It is always shown as alien and weird, which, of course, is the point of view of the film’s main characters, so it is justifiable. What I don’t find justifiable is that the movie itself ridicules the Japanese or Japanese stereotypes. The culture clash between the Western protagonists and the Japanese environment is sometimes played for comedy and in each instance, it isn’t the culture clash as such, which is meant to be funny, or the lack of understanding of its American protagonists, but the fact that the Japanese don’t do things the same way – or even the fact that the Japanese characters don’t speak English or English with an accent (consider the scene with the prostitute or the scene with the director giving instructions through an interpreter). “Racist” certainly is too big a word with which to brand ‘Lost in Translation’, but it does belittle Japanese culture as something to be made fun of.
As mentioned above, this is mostly the result of the movie taking its protagonists’ point of view, who show very little (if any) interest in Japan and choose to spend their time in Tokyo mostly in a luxury hotel. And that’s my big issue with the film: In my opinion, Scarlett Johansson’s and Bill Murray’s characters have no reason to be bored. They are very privileged people in a fascinating country, yet they are so blasé that they don’t show any interest in their surroundings. I simply can’t comprehend their feelings of existential ennui, when they choose to feel alienated and don’t even pick up a good book to pass the time. These characters don’t want to engage with anything and I didn’t like them because of it.
In a negative review of another Sophia Coppola movie (don’t remember which one, probably ‘Somewhere’), the author argued that she makes movies based on her experience of growing up as the daughter of a celebrity and that her movies are navel-gazing and indulgent of celebrity privilege. Apart from ‘Lost in Translation’, I’ve only seen ‘Marie Antoinette’ and ‘The Bling Ring’ and this criticism could be applied to all three of these movies to some extent. I’m very curious about @peng’s further reviews of her movies.