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Heroes of the Zeroes: Lost in Translation

by on June 28, 2010
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Heroes of the Zeroes is Nick Rogers’ daily, alphabetical look back at the 365 best films of 2000-2009.

“Lost in Translation”
Rated R
2003

Everyone has fleeting, pensive moments of loneliness — riding to work on the elevator, lying in bed when sleep won’t come, dinner at a table for one.

Half of Sofia Coppola’s “Lost in Translation” takes place in that instant, and the other half in what shakes you from that reverie — something you can only hope is as wonderful as the initial smile that sparked a tender connection between Bob (Bill Murray) and Charlotte (Scarlett Johansson).

“Translation” tapped into the inexplicable rush of late-night outings and spontaneous conversations.

Convention would require these two Americans wandering through Tokyo to have an affair. Maybe they do, maybe they don’t. Part of this 2003 film’s radiance came from giving us enough to know about, and feel for, these characters, but not bog us down with details that would otherwise seem pedestrian.

Murray’s performance — Oscar-nominated, but unreasonably left out of the winner’s circle — has wiseacre one-liners and physical comedy we’ve come to expect from him. (An overly aggressive escort and an elliptical machine from hell vex Bob.)

However, Murray’s transformation from a sad, spiritless sack of flesh into a man renewed by unexpected friendship stuns, and he’s as brilliant as he’s ever been. It’s also a shame Johansson’s never matched her work here — husky, sexy, earnest, honest and afraid of a life unfulfilled.

“Translation’s” ambiguous, but perfect, ending, reveals only that which is necessary — the oft-debated, whispered final words between the two being the weapon each would use to combat their next inevitably lonely moment.

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