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Lost in Translation

Lost in Translation (2003) is the sophomore writing and directorial effort of Sofia Coppola (after The Virgin Suicides), and stars Bill Murray, Scarlett Johansson, Giovanni Ribisi, and Anna Faris.

The movie is about culture shock between East and West as well as the more general alienation of individuals in the modern world. Murray plays an American movie star, Bob Harris, who has come to Tokyo to film a Suntory whisky commercial. In the downward slope of his career, with a wife who calls frequently not to actually talk to him but to get his opinion on floor samples for remodeling, Murray finds himself in a city and culture beyond his comprehension for reasons that he has trouble remembering. Johansson is Charlotte, a recent philosophy graduate of Yale University, the wife of a Rolling Stone-type photographer (Ribisi), in Tokyo for her husband's job, and also wondering where she is and what she is doing, and who the man that she married really is. Her husband has more time for the young starlets (e.g. Faris) that he is there to shoot than for her, and so Bob and Charlotte, both lonely and lost, happen to meet each other in the lounge of the hotel they are staying at (the Park Hyatt Tokyo) and immediately strike up an unusual friendship. Drawn together by their mutual dissatisfaction and alienation, the two experience the stranger side of Tokyo nightlife, playfully exploring the foreign city, and finding comfort in relating to each other when nothing else in their lives seems to fit.

Boosted by critical acclaim and audience word of mouth, this modest feature film (with only a $4 million budget) became a comparative box office hit. Lost in Translation is considered an early Oscar contender, not only for Coppola's script and distinctive directing, but especially for Murray, who by most accounts gave the performance of his career. Johansson (only 17 at the time) also received notice for her strong performance. The film garnered five Golden Globes nominations, for best director, best motion picture (musical or comedy), best actor (musical or comedy) (Murray), best actress (musical or comedy) (Johansson), and best screenplay.

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