Study Guide

Lost in Translation Language and Communication

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Language and Communication

The director speaks at length in Japanese.

TRANSLATOR: He want you to turn, look in camera. Okay?

BOB: That's all he said?

Sure seems like "That's all he (or she) said?" could be Bob's motto when we meet him. He's a guy who's struggling to understand the world around him and who's frustrated by not being able to really communicate with anybody. In short, Bob's looking for more.

PREMIUM FANTASY WOMAN: Lip my stockings. Yes, please. Lip them.

BOB: What?

PREMIUM FANTASY WOMAN: Lip them. Hey! Lip! My! Stocking!

BOB: Hey! Lip them? Lip them? What?

PREMIUM FANTASY WOMAN: Lip them, like this! Lip them.

BOB: Rip them?


BOB: You want me to rip your stockings?

PREMIUM FANTASY WOMAN: Yes, rip my stockings.

In this scene, the communication barrier is played for laughs. We can't help wondering if they're laughs that lean a little too far into stereotypes about the Asian accent, though. It's a funny scene, especially once Bob does try to rip her stockings and the premium fantasy woman delivers some first-rate physical comedy. What do you think? Is turning Rs into Ls offensive? Genuine? Something in between? How does comedy work? That's a simple question, right?

NAKA: Are you drinking, no?

BOB: Am I drinking? Yeah, as soon as I'm done.

As the Suntory photo shoot wears on, Bob starts getting a little mouthy, in part because he's tired and bored and feels like a sell-out, but also because he's pretty confident the communication barrier means Naka can't tell he's being a smart-aleck.

NAKA: Close your face, please.

BOB: Close my face?

NAKA: Yes, sorry.

Bob's photo and film shoots are filled with little sparks of miscommunication like these. It's no wonder they wear on him and add to his overall sense of isolation and dissatisfaction. And let's be real: movie star or no, we're sure these gaps in language are no picnic for the Japanese directors that Bob works with, either.

NAKA: And 007?

BOB: He drinks martinis, but okay, I got it.

NAKA: Loja Moore?

BOB: Loja Moore?

NAKA: You know Loja Moore?

BOB: Roger Moore?

NAKA: Yeah.

BOB: Okay. I always think of Sean Connery. Seriously.

NAKA: No, no.

BOB: Didn't you get the Sean Connery one over here?

NAKA: No. Roger Moore.

Here we have more of the age-old joke of Rs turning into Ls. That's not why we're looking at this exchange, though. We're looking at it because it shows that Bob can't even bond with somebody about Bond, James Bond, an internationally recognizable pop culture icon whose movies transcend languages and cultures. In other words, if they can't even agree on the best Bond, what hope is there for forging a connection about anything else? (Personally, we're Team Timothy Dalton all the way. Dude gets no respect; probably because he made The Beautician and the Beast.)

KELLY'S FRIEND: You know that break beat, right. Well, I've been, like, taking it to some next-level s***. Like, I'll take that and put a delay on it, so it's like [He beatboxes]. So it's like involving the beat. So it sounds like hella large on the track. You know what I'm sayin'?


That's our Charlotte. She doesn't mince words, and she doesn't have anything in common with Kelly, Kelly's beat-making friend, or even her own husband right now. Do you think Charlotte's an old soul, or is she being mean, or are Kelly and her friend just terrible? We're kind of leaning toward terrible, TBH. Charlotte can't communicate with them, and it seems like she's A-OK with having zero common ground. Hella okay.

CHARLOTTE: You having a nice time?

BOB: Can you keep a secret? I'm trying to organize a prison break. I'm looking for, like, an accomplice. We'd have to first get out of this bar, then the hotel, then the city, and then the country. Are you in, or are you out?


Part of why Bob and Charlotte are able to connect almost immediately is this shared sense that they don’t belong, and that they want to escape from this moment in their lives. Sure, Bob's making a joke of it here, but given how many times we see them literally running away from people and events, there's a lot of truth to this jailbreak plot.

BOB: Which one's burgundy?

Bob's communication with his wife has been ground down to talking about carpet samples and their kids. There's no "I miss you" or "I can't wait to get home." There's only burgundy.

BOB: Well, you either go to a doctor, or you leave it here… See, they love black toe over in this country… Gotta be. You know, this country? Somebody's gotta prefer black toe. Ah, "brack" toe. We should probably hang around until someone orders it?

We don't know about you, but we're starting to think Bob has just a wee bit of hostility toward the cultural and communicative barriers he keeps running into in Japan. We know from the mobile billboard he and Charlotte pass that he's been Suntory's spokesman for a while. That means this isn't his first trip to the Far East. The fact that, in this brief exchange, he squeezes in yet another joke about Japanese accents and insinuates that, in their culture, people find blackened human toes a delicacy seems to suggest there's some hostility—or at least disdain—there.

CHARLOTTE: You know, the first time I saw you, you were wearing a tuxedo at the bar? You were very dashing. I liked the mascara.

BOB: But the first time I saw you was in the elevator.


BOB: You don’t remember?

CHARLOTTE: I guess you do kind of blend in, huh? Did I scowl at you?

BOB: No, you smiled.


BOB: Yes, it was a complete accident, a freak. I haven't seen it since.

Two things going on here: First, the fact that Bob can tease Charlotte about being "mean"—something we know she's insecure about—shows their connection. It bothers her when John says it, but not when Bob does. Charlotte makes no secret about the fact that she was trying her best to be uncommunicative in elevators, as a rule. She smiled at Bob despite herself.

CHARLOTTE: What about marriage? Does that get easier?

BOB: That's hard. We used to have a lot of fun. Lydia would come with me when I made the movies, and we would laugh about it all. Now she doesn't want to leave the kids, and she doesn't need me to be there. The kids miss me, but they're fine. It gets a whole lot more complicated when you have kids.

CHARLOTTE: Yeah, it's scary.

BOB: It's the most terrifying day of your life, the day the first one is born.

CHARLOTTE: Nobody ever tells you that.

BOB: Your life, as you know it, is gone, never to return. But they learn how to walk, and they learn how to talk, and you want to be with them, and they turn out to be the most delightful people you'll ever meet in your life.

CHARLOTTE: Mmm. That's nice.

Bob and Lydia used to laugh about stuff? Here, Bob sums up how communication has deteriorated between him and his wife, while he's doing an awesome job of communicating with Charlotte. Charlotte seems interested in what Bob’s saying, but her response here—“that’s nice”—shows us that she’s at a totally different place in her life than he is. She can’t really get what it’s like to have kids.

CHARLOTTE: Well, she is closer to your age. You can talk about things you have in common, like growing up in the '50s. Maybe she liked the movies you were making in the '70s, when you still were making movies.

BOB: Wasn't there anyone else there to lavish you with attention?

It's interesting that Charlotte's reaction to Bob sleeping with the Sausalito singer is to immediately discredit Charlotte and Bob's bond, which she does by claiming that he has more in common with the singer because they're closer in age. Bob uses the same tactic when he fires back, accusing Charlotte of being self-absorbed, which is a trait usually associated with youth, but not always (see: The Real Housewives of Orange County, New Jersey, Peoria, etc.).

BOB: (into the phone) Charlotte, I'm down in the lobby, and I'm leaving now. Uh, I was calling to see if you still had my jacket, if you could bring it down, but you're not there, so this is goodbye. And uh, so, I guess goodbye, and enjoy my jacket—which you stole from me.

Way to chicken out, Bob. Given that he thinks this is the last time he's going to speak to Charlotte, he leaves a lot unsaid, and evades his feelings by joking about his jacket.

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