Combustible Celluloid
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With: Alexandra Daddario, Takehiro Hira, Carice Van Houten, Misuzu Kanno, Andrew Rothney, Yasunari Takeshima, Kate Easton, Haruka Imo
Written by: Catherine Hanrahan, based on her own novel
Directed by: William Olsson
MPAA Rating: R for strong sexual content, nudity, and language
Running Time: 97
Date: 09/18/2020

Lost Girls and Love Hotels (2020)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Rooms and Gloom

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Adapted by Catherine Hanrahan from her own novel, Lost Girls and Love Hotels is a curiously drifting movie, capturing a world in which people are perhaps running away from something, but not particularly sure of what they might be running toward. Atmosphere is its high point, showing off out of the way Tokyo bars and alleys and the title by-the-hour hotels, with each room decorated in its own garish design, bold colored lights glowing dully on the participants' faces. The amazing Alexandra Daddario stars, fully committed, as Margaret, an American expat who barely makes a living not teaching but pronouncing English to hopeful flight attendants. Each night she meets two fellow expats (Carice van Houten and Andrew Rothney) at a bar, they get sloppy drunk, and she allows herself to be picked up by a man and taken to a room. Unfortunately her job is at risk because she stumbles in late and disheveled each day. It's pretty much all she has.

But one day she meets Kazu (Takehiro Hira) in a bookstore as she's leaving through a book of erotica. While Margaret's other lovers hesitate to play dangerous love-games with her (such as choking her with a belt or tying her up), Kazu confidently jumps right in, and Margaret feels drawn to him. But Kazu is scheduled to be married, and it's the kind of marriage he can't get out of. The movie could have dived into an explosive Yakuza shoot-em-up ending, or it could have gone down a more lurid path, attempting to titillate with the sex, but instead, every scene is about lostness, about forever yearning and searching and not finding. Lost Girls and Love Hotels will likely disappoint viewers looking for something more literal, or as some reviews have suggested, another stab at a Fifty Shades of Grey, but it's more of a mood piece, a tone poem, and it's a good one.

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