Lost in Translation – Culture Shock

Plot synopsis from Wikipedia:

Bob Harris (Bill Murray), an aging American movie star, arrives in Tokyo to film an advertisement for Suntory whisky, for which he will receive $2 million. Charlotte (Scarlett Johansson), a young recent Yale graduate, is left behind in her hotel room by her husband, John (Giovanni Ribisi), a celebrity photographer on assignment in Tokyo. Charlotte is unsure of her present and her future and about the man she has married as she believes he takes more interest in his celebrity models, most notably a young and popular American actress named Kelly (Anna Faris), than he does in her. At the same time, Bob’s own 25-year marriage is tired and lacking in romance as he goes through a midlife crisis.

One night, after a long photo shoot, Bob retreats to the hotel bar. Charlotte, sitting at a table with John and friends, notices Bob and has a waiter bring him a bowl of peanuts from her table. Later, Bob and Charlotte have brief encounters each night at the hotel bar, until Charlotte invites Bob to meet up with some local friends of hers. Bob accepts and arrives later at her hotel room dressed in an outfit for a young appeal style. Meanwhile, the two begin a friendship bond through their adventures in Tokyo together while experiencing the differences between Japanese and American culture, and between their own generations.

On the penultimate night of his stay, Bob attracts the attention of the resident vocalist. The next morning, Bob awakens to find this woman in his room, having apparently slept with her. Charlotte arrives at his room to go out for breakfast only to find the woman in his room, leading to conflict and tension over a subsequent lunch. Later that night, during a fire alarm at the hotel, Bob and Charlotte reconcile and express how they will miss each other as they make one more trip back to the hotel bar.

On the following morning, Bob is set for his departure back to the United States. He tells Charlotte goodbye at the hotel lobby shortly before checking out and sadly watches her retreat back to an elevator. While riding in a taxi to the airport, Bob sees Charlotte on a crowded street and he gets out and goes to her. Bob embraces Charlotte and whispers something (substantially inaudible to the audience) in the tearful Charlotte’s ear. The two share a kiss, say goodbye and Bob departs.

Discussion Questions

1) What culture shock symptoms does the character Bob display?

2) What culture shock symptom does the character Charlotte display?

3) Compare and contrast the culture shock symptoms of Bob and Charlotte.

4) What particular events in Japan cause Bob to become upset?

5) What particular events in Japan cause Charlotte to become upset?

6) How does Bob try to “solve” his culture shock?

7) How does Charlotte try to “solve” her culture shock?

8) Compare and contrast the solutions of Bob and Charlotte.

Lost in Translation Worksheet

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