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Dir. Sofia Coppola
Sofia Coppolas sophomore effort is as effective a treatise on alienation and dislocation as you are likely to ever see. Bill Murray plays high-profile American actor Bob Harris on what starts as a demoralizing but will prove to be an illuminating -- detour in Japan to film a whiskey commercial.
Staying in the same hotel is Scarlett Johanssen, an unemployed philosophy graduate tagging along with her photographer husband (Giovanni Ribisi) who seems too enamored with the shallow glitz of his budding career to notice her growing feelings of isolation. Both suffering from insomnia, they end up in the hotel bar sharing late-night conversations, and the chance meeting soon turns into an intense friendship.
The chaotic backdrop of Tokyo nightlife serves to emphasize the personal crisis of the two main characters, but ironically they relate with more willingness and more clarity to those on the opposite side of the language barrier than they do to their English-speaking partners (her husband, his wife). Their relationship exists as an emotional island, with the doe-eyed Johanssen acting as a perfect complement to Bill Murrays world-weary, alienated thespian. Both performances are equally understated, and Murray is somehow funnier because of it. Coppola had my vote for best picture.