On the other hand, “Lost in Translation” is much, much more than the sum of its parts. This is mostly owing to two things: First, Coppola’s canny, almost pitch-perfect ability to synthesize these elements into a uniform, intoxicating mood. She’d already established this talent with her debut film, “The Virgin Suicides,” but only to the extent that she was able to make a confident statement of independence from the legacy of her father’s career. “Suicides,” though assured, was heady but not thoughtful, and full of emotion but not particularly deep.
This is not the case with her follow-up, mostly thanks to Bill Murray, an actor who has been hinting at something profound and monumental for years, but whose films — whether by virtue of limited screen time, limited scriptwriting or his own limited sense of commitment — have always left us wanting more. Murray finally delivers the performance that we’ve all been begging for: a nuanced, high-wire balancing of cutting hilarity and harrowing desperation. Coppola tailors this movie’s alternate reality of privileged tourism to fit Murray like a fine suit, and he looks, sounds, sighs, glares, pauses and quips amazingly, with great, great heart. It’s a wonderful, riveting performance and it makes the film more than just a mood; it makes it remarkable.