Bill Murray lived up to the hype and more, he was simply amazing. Now he did a fine job in Rushmore and The Royal Tennenbaums, and when you see him in these movies you think to yourself, "Wow, that was a really unusual role for Bill Murray, he was really good!" After Lost in Translation, you simply don't associate it will Bill Murray. He was so good, that now when I think about Ghostbusters or Scrooged I find it odd to see Bill Murray as a comedian.
Scarlett Johannsen was also remarkable, and kudos for the casting director for ever coming up with the idea of putting them together, and having the imagination to think it would work. And being right.
But what did I think about the movie? Hmmm. Well, I hated a lot of the first half. There was a lot of the rave/mod/party/etc. scenes (what you call them probably depends on what decade you grew up in) and I simply hate that kind of thing so much that just watching it made me excruciatingly uncomfortable. I also decided that I really like Japanese traditional culture, but I dislike Japanese pop culture. I also decided that I will never, ever visit Japan to see the cities. I will one day visit Japan to see the country.
Oh, and Japanese video games are weird. Granted, it's kind of neat that there are video games whose interface is a traditional Japanese drum, or an electric guitar. But honestly, if people in this country think it's geeky to be obsessed with fighting video games run from a joystick, it's 100x as geeky to be obssessed with a music synchronization game that is run from ten large (3" or so) brightly colored buttons and dance moves.
And unfortunately for me, Japanese pop culture was a huge part of the movie. The rest was a really sweet story of a friendship between two people, highly dissimilar but joined by a sense of comradery. Both people have found themselves in culture shock as they try to make sense of Tokyo, but end up spending most of their time fighting insomnia in their own hotel. The friendship starts small, as unexpected friendships do. But they quickly realize they are stronger together.
During the entire movie, up until a really brilliant scene at the very end, it is unclear whether or not the two considered their relationship an affair -- because after all, they were both already married. Honestly, I believe that it was not the relationship itself that was unclear, but the relationship in light of my Hollywood-biased expectations of movies. And in a way, this movie is itself an experiment to try and overcome that bias. In typical Hollywood, if a man and a woman meet and grow close, their relationship becomes sexual. If they both have married lives elsewhere, then it becomes an affair. That just how Hollywood works.
Lost in Translation should get an award for breaking Hollywood's mold. Perhaps a Nobel Peace Price for finding a peaceful compromise between Man and Woman.
So did I like the movie or not? I can't tell. I've been thinking about it for the waking part of the last 16 hours, and I just don't have a clue. It was very clear that there were parts that I didn't like, but there were parts that I did. I don't think I'll be ready to see it again for a while. But all things considered, it was a phenomenal movie.