As a big fan of Bill Murray’s run on Saturday Night Live and classic 70s/80s comedies like Stripes, Caddyshack, Meatballs, Scrooged and, of course, the Ghostbusters movies, it was hard to accept him in what a younger version of me described as his “sad bastard” phase. In the late 90s I wasn’t paying nearly as much attention to the world of film as I do now, so the switch from things like Space Jam to Rushmore, The Royal Tenenbaums and Lost In Translation was a pretty big shock. It makes all the sense in the world to me now he felt the need to change his image a bit and wanted to show a different side of himself.
For what it’s worth, I’m not a big fan of the Wes Anderson movies I’ve seen, so I’m not into Murray’s performances in those movies because they’re just not my thing. But, I did enjoy him in Fantastic Mr. Fox and Zombieland, so I’m not entirely unfamiliar with the movies he’s made in the last decade. I’ve also seen at least one other Sofia Coppola movie, the moving The Virgin Suicides, so I was curious to see these two creators joining sources. Plus, who isn’t captivated by Scarlett Johansson?
And it really is a great film. I’m a huge fan of stories that take two characters who probably shouldn’t be together and create a believable atmosphere for them to interact within. That’s the case for married movie star Bob Harris (Murray) and photographer’s wife Charlotte (Johansson) who both happen to be staying in the same Tokyo hotel at the same time, wind up meeting, becoming friends and possibly more.
I like to call this a “staring out the window” movie because, well, there’s a lot of that going on. I don’t think that’s a bad thing at all because it means that the characters are contemplative. I mean, it’s a pretty obvious way of conveying that idea, but when you’re cooped up in a hotel room and surrounded by the fairly alien landscape of Tokyo, it works. The film also takes a somewhat leisurely pace, not rushing too fast, often getting into scenes that show how these characters act on their own, together just the two of them and also in larger groups. You notice little differences as you go which comes from getting so many creative people together to work on a story. Essentially, you get to see them grow as a couple, though a couple that probably shouldn’t be together.
While the “inappropriate” relationship is a big part of the story (they’re both married), another driving force of this movie is the idea of two people coming together in this environment that’s so separated from their normal lives. It’s only because they’re in this strange place that they come together. Because they’re so isolated, these people cling to one another and develop a relationship that wouldn’t happen otherwise. It’s a really interesting story and situation that asks a lot from its actors and delivers as far as I’m concerned.