This is Sofia Coppola's follow up to her smart and sublime debut The Virgin Suicides, and it's a great next step in her career. In a way, this sort of seemed a little like the works of Alexander Payne, only a bit more hip and indie. The film follows two people: Bob Harris, an actor who is in Tokyo to shoot a whiskey commercial, and Charlotte, a young college graduate who is also in Tokyo, having tagged along with her photographer husband who is in town on business. Charlotte's husband seems more preoccupied with wanting to spend time working and hanging out with a ditzy actress than his wife, so she spends a lot of time bored, sleep deprived, and wandering around alone. One night she and Bob, who is similarly bored and lonely, meet up at their hotel's bar and start to form a bond that just might be the thing both need to lift their collective spirits.
This is a very quiet and subdued film, but I liked that. It's wry, funny, bittersweet, and a tad melancholy, yet it's also very charming and even slightly whimical. I'd also say it's very realistic in how the characters interact and how things end, It reminded me of going on a road trip and experiencing the full range of emotions and experiences that one could go through in just a short amount of time.
This is a slow paced film that is not concrned with wrapping things up in a nice tidy bow and just rushing from one thing to another, but again, for me, that's okay. We need these kinds of things once in a while. Again, it's a lot like life, which isn't always fast paced and super exciting. This obviously isn't a film for all tastes, but if what you've read about it so far sounds interesting, then give it a go.
The film is all about wayward souls adrift and alone, even in a place as crowded as Japan, but despite the isolation (mentally, culturally, and linguistically), and difficulty with communication barriers, this film proves through the bonding of Bob and Charlotte that not all hope is lost, and it's still possible to make a meaningful connection despite all that's going on. Yeah, the ending is one of "those" types where it's ambigupus and open ended, but I think it's the best possible way they could have concluded this.
With a film like this, the themes and stuff won't work unless you've got some great performers to fill the roles, and Coppola struck gold here. Murray long ago cemented his statu as a talented guy, and he delivers one of his best performances here, which, if I'm not mistaken, was the beginning of his sad sack routine, which is something I really grove on. He's funny and pulls off the sadness and boredom stuff well, so it's a win win all around. Johansson truly made herself a star here, and she excels at bringing Charlotte's frustration, insecurities, and doubts to life. Ribisi is decent as Charlotte's husband John, but it's a little one note and underdeveloped. Anna Faris is okay, but also kinda one note as the ditzy actress Kelly whom John knows and could possibly have a deeper connection to.
By this point it should be obvious how I feel about this film. It's got great cinematogrpahy, good music, and, though it sounds shallow, any film that starts by showing a closeup of Scarlett Johansson's butt in see-through pink panties has to be worth a look.