In the early part of the year when I first began my Women Who Wow Wednesday feature, I concentrated my efforts on kick-ass women. If you ever wondered about Ellen Ripley, Hit-Girl, The Bride and Mathilda, they’re all there waiting for your craving eyes. As the months went on, however, I noticed a subtle change. Rather than focus only on women who physically can beat the willies out of their enemies, I’ve also chosen to write about women who are kick-ass in heart, style and grace. Take a look at my posts for Debra Barone, Adrian, Rose, and Scarlett O’Hara.
Enter Charlotte (Scarlett Johansson), who I’m sure doesn’t even have a last name in the movie Lost in Translation. At least I didn’t catch one, I’m sure of it. She’s stuck in a hotel room in the Park Hyatt in Shinjuku, Tokyo while her photographer husband is on assignment shooting who knows what. She passes the time staring blankly out her 56th floor window to the Japanese skyline. There’s a lot to see when you’re lonely.
Bob Harris (Bill Murray) makes his appearance soon after. A film entourage greets him in the lobby speaking nothing but Japanese. With certainty, something’s bound to get lost in translation. He’s twice Charlotte’s age, married, kids, and almost there as a favor for his agent who can’t get him a gig anywhere else. No one says he’s done, but the implication is there, given his stint working in a whiskey commercial in Japan.
They first notice each other in a cramped elevator filled with Japanese businessmen. They don’t say much. She smiles, yet continues with her day. It isn’t until they catch eyes once again in the hotel’s New York Bar located on 52nd floor that they wonder how weirdly coincidental life is. It’s late in the evening, he leaves, paying his tab, and she stays with her husband, laughing with friends.
As the clock hits 4:20 AM, unable to sleep, Charlotte dives under the covers with her husband, but he grumbles something and tells her to go to sleep. In another room, four floors below, Bob lays awake sitting on his bed in a daze. A fax comes in from his wife in America asking him which shelves he wants in his study. Renovations, I suppose.
The next night, at 3:00 AM, again Charlotte can’t sleep. She finds herself at the bar as Bob remains seated, lost in his thoughts. He notices her. They strike up a conversation. He talks about his wife needing space. She talks about her husband’s work. They get to the marriage questions. She’s been married two years, and he says he’s got her beat at twenty-five years. In that brief moment she jokes about him experiencing a mid-life crisis and wonders if he had purchased a Porsche yet. He’s thinking about it, of course. He asks her what she plans to do with her life. She says philosophy—she doesn’t know what to do with it, but she can certainly think about it a lot. They click their glasses wishing they both could sleep.
So that’s how Charlotte meets Bob, in a bar, fifty-two floors above the Japanese skyline. It doesn’t end there, by any means. It’s only the beginning. You see, Charlotte represents a woman lost in life making a connection with someone who awakens her ambition to better herself. Someone who speaks to her soul. Not in an emotional or sexual sense. More on a deep, intellectual and spiritual level. Whatever she may have felt before meeting him hadn’t disappeared. It still lays there dormant, waiting. Yet he introduces something in her life, something of substance she craved.
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Have you seen Lost in Translation? What did you think of Charlotte’s friendship with Bob?
17 thoughts on “Charlotte”
I’ve noticed that change in your WWWW series too, and appreciate it. I think the reason that women are stereotyped as the weaker sex is because they don’t often show the brute strength that men show. It’s easier to see strength if it’s in the form of lifting something heavy or beating someone to a bloody pulp. Physical and emotional strength both have their merits, so it’s cool that you’re paying attention to them both in this series.
I remember seeing this movie when it came out and being disappointed by it, but I don’t remember why. I’m not a big Scarlett Johansson fan, but I think her acting has gotten better over time. I’ll have to rewatch this one.
Great post, I love this movie so much. Bill and Scarlett as so amazing in it.
There’s lots in common between Groundhog Day and Lost in Translation. GH is funny but still quite deep I think. Murray in LI is not unusually serious, there’s still lots of humour, but it’s a bit quiter.
Haven’t seen this one, though it sounds like an unusually serious role for Bill Murray (then again, I still picture movies like Groundhog’s Day when I think of him which is obviously more than a little dated to go by).
Nice summary! I’d forgotten about this movie, but I remember enjoying watching it for the very reasons you just wrote about 🙂
Great film, great post!
You’ve got me hooked. I’d love to watch this.
I need to see this movie, then! I like Scarlett Johanssen and Bill Murray—this movie never stood out to me before, but it sounds like a winner now. Being ignored is a terrible feeling as it implies that we are forgettable, unnecessary, and taken for granted. I think everyone knows that feeling.
Charlotte’s an incredible character. Surface-level she’s plain, ordinary, almost kind of boring. But then when we see her go through certain issues with her husband, it’s kind of sad and the audience can relate to her loneliness and of her being ignored. Bob’s the perfect compliment, yet the audience also knows they should have met in another generation and in another time.
So THAT’S what the point of the movie is –He doesn’t ignore her! Thanks Jack. I thought it was weird and boring when I watched it years ago when it came out. Maybe I will try again now that I am older and more worldly haha.
Oh God, I fell in love with SJ in that movie. She has a pair of the most beautiful… Eyes ( and boobs as well, who am I kidding?). It truly was those eyes though. *sigh*
Whenever people say that Scarlett Johansson is just a pretty face, I tell them to go watch this movie. She’s absolutely amazing in it. And was only 19 or 20 when it was shot, I think!
And when even younger in The Perfect Score (about taking the SATs) she was the standout while all the other actors were mere background noise. That woman’s got chops!
Scarlett Johansson’s an incredible actress. She made Charlotte this perfectly accessible character that women could relate to. The phone scene is what Charlotte’s all about. Sad, oh, so very sad…
I haven’t seen the movie, but from your description (and the fact that I love Bill Murray), it sounds like one I should see. I enjoyed how you portrayed Charlotte in your piece, too.
Thanks, Katie. I like Charlotte. She’s an interesting character who married much too early and is now questioning her decision because of the loneliness she feels. Sophia Coppola did an awesome job with getting the feeling right to depict Charlotte’s solitude. If you ever do see it, let me know what you think!