LAND OF THE 'LOST': Sofia Coppola's new film Lost In Translation certainly has its charms. Bill Murray turns in another masterful performance as the sullen, defeated former movie star reduced to pimping Suntory Whiskey for $2 million, and neither Tokyo nor Scarlett Johansson's ass have looked better on screen in recent years.
That said, the movie reminded me of, out of all things, About Schmidt more than anything else.
Both movies featured actors mostly known for high-volume type-A performances, being praised for dialing it back.
Both movies featured said actors as weary men looking for meaning in their lives, disappointed by (and free from) the restraints caused by marriage, at the end of the line in their work situation, uprooted from their homes.
And both movies failed to move me the way they moved the middle-aged white men who dominate film criticism.
Part of it's an age thing, I'm sure. I'm much more into movies about adolescents and twentysomethings trying to find their way in the world. I can relate.
Part of it's the really unnecessary level of condescension both movies levy against the populace. In Schmidt, it's the dumb hicks who seem to be the sole populants of middle America; in Lost, it's the Japanese people, of whom Coppola makes much sport mocking their inability to speak English properly, none of whom are really invested with any depth. From the prostitute sent to Murray to the film crews to the greeters, they unifomly exist to be made sport of. It ended up really alienating me from the movie, especially in the first half, and I felt uncomfortable.
And part of it's just expectations. Based on its reviews I came in expecting something four-star, profound and moving; I ended up liking the second half a lot, loving Coppola's critique of her own disintegrating marriage and appreciating -- while not being bowled over by -- the lead performances.
Look: Bill Murray deserves an Oscar some day, but for Groundhog Day, Ed Wood or Rushmore, not this one. It's good, but it's not going to compete with anything labeled "one of the definitive pieces of screen acting in the last half-century."
(Taking a look at his filmmography, I'm reminded of how much I love Murray's comic turns in supporting roles in Wild Things, Tootsie and especially Kingpin -- even leaving aside the 1980s lead trifecta of Stripes, Caddyshack and Ghostbusters. The man's good, and he chooses roles well.)
(For more on the respect owed Bill Murray, see this recent Fametracker Audit.)
There's at least one moment in the movie that's absolutely perfect, though. When Johannsen's doing a karaoke version of "Brass In Pocket", looks at Murray and he flirts back, and, oh, that smile he gives is really magical. The movie really works well in tiny moments like this, when it's just these two drifting characters making a connection.
It ain't a bad movie. It's just not the great one it's being hyped to be.
Or, at least, that's what I thought.