03 April 2005

The Death of Happy Endings

It now seems that poignant goodbyes between characters is a much-favoured movie finale. And you thought you could pull the rose-tinted-glasses over your tear-weary eyes, and let the magic of cinema soothe your romance-starved heart? Ha! Think again!

It was a Scarlett Johannson weekend for me. I caught In Good Company last night (not worth blogging about), and Lost in Translation (2nd viewing) this afternoon. Maybe it's just me, but the "love life" of the characters she plays always seems star-crossed.

Which isn't surprising in Lost in Translation, a flick that dwells more on failure than success, and is more about alienation than making a connection.

In Bob and Charlotte's idealistic youth, the future was a promise. As the years passed, they realised it was a contract, not a promise, and they didn't read the fine print. Bob’s stellar career must eventually decline, just as the thrill of Charlotte’s marriage loses its lustre. Despite Bob and Charlotte's difference in age, they both stumble upon disillusionment equally unprepared. And it is their sharing of this emptiness, not lust, that unites them. (Conditioned by Hollywood, I'm sure I wasn't the only one expecting something as they lay side by side.)

Instead, the hotel bed becomes the backdrop for a heart-to-heart talk into the wee hours of morning. Charlotte asks a question resonant for so many of us, "Does it get any easier?" and we prick our ears with vested interest. Bob is a tiny window into Charlotte's future, as she begins to experience the dull strain in her own marriage, slight but nonetheless troubling suspicions of her husband's possible infidelity, and a loneliness she thought she said goodbye to at the altar.

In spite of its sobering themes, Lost in Translation isn't a film you'd call depressing. Roll-over funny scenes punctuate its masterfully-captured, incessant drone of ennui. And Tokyo, although bizarre and lonely, fascinates with its sights, pleasures and quirks.

It is Charlotte's lone rambling in temples, Bob's goofy mishaps and the couple's casual banter that make this film so subtly charming. And in the true spirit of subtlety, the most hard-hitting conversation is the one we can’t hear.

And maybe saying goodbye is the happiest ending possible — all relationships would eventually degenerate, but theirs is sweetly immortalised by its unexplored potential.

1 comment:

Mum of the 2 C's said...

Lick my stockings! Lick my stockings!