I am at a loss for words with this movie. It has zombies, which is a good thing, even if they are being bashed over the head (HA PUN) of the consumer public and then the typical wackiness that is Japanese cinema. If you combine the two items together, you just get a wacky Japanese zombie flick. What sets it apart from the typical fast moving, ominous horde of the undead in movies, is that this is a just an offbeat comedy about two friends looking to save the country of Japan with the power of zombie killing jujitsu. I know it sounds ridiculous that it is the fighting style tat Steven Seagal would use on a daily basis, but you got to hand it to Japan for taking the genre and making it weird.
Now I will probably catch a lot of flack for actually liking this overrated movie. I will agree that the movie got a lot of praise that is questionable. I guess it was due more to Bill Murray having this rebirth in film all of a sudden and showed that he can be more than just a funny man. Still though the movie had a fantastic, although hipsterish soundtrack, and had fucking Bill Murray. I mean come on man, it’s Bill Fucking Murray.
So a quick rundown of the movie for those that haven’t seen this. Bill Murray plays Bob Harris, an aging actor who goes to Tokyo for some photo shoots and endorsement deals. While dealing with the inevitable white person culture shock that goes on, which is the crutch of the comedy, we are introduced to another character named Charlotte, played by Scarlett Johansson. Charlotte is in Tokyo as well with her photographer husband, played by Giovanni Ribisi. Scenes unfold that cast shadows on both Bob Harris and Charlotte’s marriages as each are going through difficult time and arguments. Both Bob and Charlotte eventually talk after countless encounters in the bar of the hotel where Charlotte invites Bob out to meet her friends and get into random situations as foreigners.
Both form a close bond on an intellectual and generation level. Each share an unspoken emotional connection to one another during the outings in Tokyo. One night Bob ends up sleeping with the hotel vocalists and Charlotte confronts him over a lunch date and there is uneasy tension. After a fire alarm goes off in the hotel, Charlotte and Bob both reconcile, claiming they miss one another too much. So on the final morning of Bob’s departure, he hugs Charlotte and watches her retreat sadly back to the hotel. On the way to airport he spots her in a crowded street and gets out to confront her one last time. They share an embrace and an inaudible whisper.
I really enjoyed the movie more for the relationship between Bob and Charlotte than I did for the situational comedy that Sofia used to hammer in the concept of Tokyo being this strange place. A lot of the humor is derived from the Japanese people being weird and small than Bill Murray. I get that he is a foot taller than most people and can’t use their showers properly. I understand that their hookers for some reason like to have their pantyhose ripped. I understand that poking a bit of fun at a culture that is not our own can directly show differences between the two. The movie just uses a lot of these situations to create awkward comedy scenarios. The reality is that Sofia might have been showing exactly what she went through shooting in Tokyo or maybe taking accounts of other actors and their experiences there. It’s that those scenes kind of outweigh the other scenes that showed cultural differences in a more serene and less tiresome way.
My favorite scenes are primarily with Charlotte and her adventures. Her solo travel to a Japanese garden gave us a look at Japanese life in a more reverent way. She observes a wedding, priests praying and life just passing by. It is a lot more effective to me as a viewer when I am not being assaulted with constant reminders of white people being in non-white locations and situations.
Now that I am off the rant of situational awareness and comedy, I can talk about the best aspect of the movie which can be summed up in one picture…
Worth the price of admission
Alright seriously, the second best part of the movie is the relationship that Bob and Charlotte have and the development of their bond. Giving credit where credit is due, Sofia Coppola does an amazing job getting me invested in the characters. I found myself sympathetic to both Bob and Charlotte and the personal problems that each of them faced. Both have a relationship that is in question and both manage to find one another amongst the bustle of Tokyo. Although they have many conversations during the movie, it is the times when they don’t say anything and just revel in one another’s presence that solidifies their relationship. The final ending is touching in that we don’t need to hear what Bob says to Charlotte. In our minds we already know what they are saying or what we want them to say.
The movie is a gem and should be viewed by everyone. Does it deserve all the praise that it gets? Sure, but I think the best aspect of the movie is the acting between Scarlett and Bill Murray as each make you believe that what is happening on screen is genuine. One last thing to note is the beautiful soundtrack that Sofia put together. Bringing together bands like Air, Jesus and Mary Chain, My Bloody Valentine, Phoenix, Death in Vegas and Bill Fucking Murray himself. I will leave with one of my favorite songs off the soundtrack by Air called Alone in Kyoto. This is really what exemplifies the feeling of being alone in a mysterious new place. Also a very properly named track for a movie about being in Tokyo (yes i am aware it says Kyoto, but Kyoto is just an anagram for Tokyo).