A Hollywood Romance Package & How To Avoid It

Lost in Translation

Indie films are largely believed to be radically different in structure when compared with its Hollywood counterpart. However, as our class saw with Gallo’s Buffalo 66, an indie film can follow roughly the same three act structure while simply changing one other ingredient for a completely non-tradition outcome. Buffalo 66 did this by reversing traditional character roles. Sofia Coppola does this by denying us a long time standard in Hollywood scripting.

What Lost In Translation does in terms of narrative structure is to defy traditional relationship drama, and withhold the ‘coupling’ of the two lead characters. Bluntly put, the protagonists never have become a couple, and that is perhaps one of the biggest discrepancies of the indie structure versus the traditional ‘Hollywood’ format. ‘Getting together’ is, Hollywood has taught us, the accumulation and final payoff of the romantic subplot. Once the characters are together (and after overcoming a big hurdle of some sort), you have reached the end of your Hollywood romantic movie. You could argue that this is simply the by-product of wish fulfillment in film, but the larger truth is that the traditional narrative structure contributes and ultimately encourages the endless cycle of retreads. Films like Maid in Manhattan, You’ve Got Mail,  and Sleepless in Seattle (a movie that *Spoilers* literally ends when boy and girl meet)

Bob and Charlotte talking (And not getting together!)

(Bob and Charlotte, sleepily defying rom-com’s everywhere) 

Lost in Translation follows the common narrative structure description Fields’ outlines on page 7 and :

Act One: Introduction of the protagonist and a classic Meet Cute.
Act Two: joy and good times before a problem arises.
Act Three: The kiss and make up, and ultimate happy ending.

What carries the film from classic rom-com story-line to a more indie structure is that throughout the course of the narrative, it is clear that these two characters, Bob and Charlotte, are both consciously trying not to fall for each other. The film carries on that way to the final conclusion. The characters never given in to their temptation and become a “couple.” in the Hollywood tradition.

As we’ve seen thus far and will likely continue to see, are indie films that can follow a seemly well tread narrative path while changing as little as one aspect in regards to structure, and achieving an entirely different end result than that of your typical Hollywood factory format. The final scene Bob and Charlotte share hints that maybe someday they’ll meet again. In another time and place. But, crucially, doesn’t show the audience that and does tell us that. The characters reach the end of the movie but not the end of their relationship, firmly sealed and delivered to the audience. We are left to draw our own conclusions, and that is quintessentially  indie in structure and decidedly not Hollywood.

                                                                    CUT TO:

               Charlotte watches Bob as he reaches his car, he turns and 
               looks at her.

               She smiles at him, and is lost in the crowd.

               Bob gets into his car.

                                                                    CUT TO:

               Charlotte walks with the crowd as they go on their way.

                                                                    CUT TO:

               INT. CAR - DAY

               Back in the Presidential, alone, Bob leans against the little 
               doily.  They drive off.

               He looks out the window, Bob's happy he's going home, he's 
               happy he came to Tokyo.

               Bob's P.O.V.-  Tokyo goes past his window.

                                                             FADE TO BLACK:

                                         THE END
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3 thoughts on “A Hollywood Romance Package & How To Avoid It

  1. I agree with your post wholeheartedly. It reminds me of the movie, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Though there is romance throughout the film, the protagonists end up not getting together nor living happily ever after. And also Blue Valentine, where the audience watches as a couple’s marriage dissolves with interspersed flashbacks of how they fell in love. To me, these are real portrayals of life and much more appealing than the artificial Hollywood movies with perfect couples and easy endings.

  2. I remember watching this film with the expectation of a Hollywood ending. I dreaded them getting together because as a couple they would lose a lot of other people in their lives. When I realized towards the end that it was just going to be a one off friendship I was decidedly relieved. It struck me that this is the only way it could really end for them. Rather than being whimsical about the whole ordeal, the film seemed much more grounded in reality. The rain soaked streets of Tokyo and overcast skies provided an apt world for the characters to inhabit. I would also agree with the above comment on how it was reminiscent of Eternal Sunshine in how it ended its narrative arc. It seems to me that, as you have pointed out above, rather than trying to be a wholly radical reinterpretation of the classic three act structure, indie films instead adjust to reality and are much more practical in their endings. This lends them a sense of honesty that sets them apart from their Hollywood counterparts.

  3. Good movie. I watched on Netflix this past summer and liked the movie. It was more connected to the audience with a more realistic turn of events. The ending definitely was a nice change of pace from your typical call each others name in the crowd, meet up and kiss and run off together happily ever after. The director did a great job with the setting to bring out the emotions that run through everyones head in the given situation. You made a great point of how the ending left the audience to draw their own conclusion and let mind wander to make a conclusion. I like your comparison to Buffalo ’66 as an Indie movie that follows the Hollywood structure with the twist of their own individualistic spin.

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