Take one of the great character actors of his time, pair him with an up and coming starlet, put them in a foreign land, and you get a great movie. A rare combination of things that shouldn’t fit but happened to come together and create an unexpected gem. It’s not for everyone though, it is a somewhat a of a romance story but not too much. The story is more about two people at different points in their life both feeling lost.
The movie is set in Japan with Bill Murray as Bob Harris, a washed up movie actor, there to do an ad campaign for a whiskey. Scarlett Johansson, as Charlotte, is in the country with her husband who is a photographer. They happen to be staying in the same hotel and end up meeting by chance. Skipping most of the details of the plot, they end up spending time together and essentially falling for each other. Obviously their romance is somewhat forbidden since they are both married but it never gets deep into that since the timeline of the movie is less that a week long.
Several elements come into making the movie well worth watching. This is one of those movies that doesn’t seem to be a Bill Murray role but he pulls it off and makes it worth seeing. Think of his roles in The Razor’s Edge or Mad Dog and Glory as opposed to his comedic roles of Kingpin and Caddyshack. He shows his ability to carry a character rather than being the laugh line – although he does sprinkle in the humor and charm that he is known for. The pairing with a very young Scarlett Johansson made her role and counterpart to Bill Murray’s very believable. She does well to portray both the innocence and listlessness of youth with dashes of youthful arrogance and superiority. Some people may argue or take issue with the fact that Tokyo is the back drop of the story. I think that the setting was a big part of making the story work by allowing the characters to be outside of a their normal controlled environment. Consider if New York had been the city and the characters having to deal with being recognized by acquaintances(or fans in Bob Harris’s case). In Tokyo they could be much less guarded and the story could move along much easier.
Netflix viewers can watch this via streaming right now or wait for the disk. Amazon will stream it or sell it to you. As for run time, it lists at 101 minutes(less than 2 hours if you need help with the math). Take the time and watch it. Maybe you’ll fall for it too. The fact that the opening scene was a screen full of Miss Johansson’s ass while she laid on a bed might have influenced my interest in this movie.