Alexandra Daddario (Percy Jackson, Baywatch) portrays Margaret, an American expat living in Japan. During the days, she coaches stewardess-in-training English pronunciation; when the night falls, she wanders around the dismal, neon-bathed Tokyo to get drunk with fellow expats or (more often than) occasionally get laid with strangers in some random love hotels—BDSM mode. She’s the lost girl and Lost Girls & Love Hotels attempts to follow her self-discovery path in a strenuous, almost tedious nightly contemplation.
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Dadddario is all that makes this story works in some layer (while it clearly doesn’t in more other layers) with her nuanced performance. As she strolls along the night, she emanates this moody feeling that lets off a sense of exasperation and uncertain grief. Director William Olsson (An American Affair) sees it right through her eyes as the camera allows her face to illuminate amidst somber bars as she sips off a drink or two and gets wasted. Her character is seeking solace in a Lost in Translation but this isn’t such a story; it’s a murky story that attempts to find parallels with Sofia Coppola’s subtle work.
There’s enough nudity and kinks that make this story almost blurs the line between exploitation and a character study. And yet, things take a sophisticated (if not reckless) turn when Lost Girls & Love Hotels introduces Kazu (Takehiro Hira from Giri/Haji), a high-rank Yakuza, who stumbles upon her adventure and barely gets out. With Kazu, Margaret finds the much-needed solace; but, the longer she is with him, the more complicated it is for her. Their relationship is erotic-bound, but Kazu sees beyond that. How he sees it reminds a mystery that this movie never bounds to answer.
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The thing is, Margaret as a character, has nothing interesting to root for. She delves into self-destructive behavior that we only learn later in the story. If Margaret is short of excitement; the story lacks composure. Catherine Hanrahan’s story might have the edge at some points but it never expands beyond that. Olsson’s direction adds to the list of almosts that looms around this movie. Lost Girls & Love Hotels is never going completely dark; and it never seeks the path of light. It wanders around without directions, just like the character in it; and, just like that, the story expects audiences to come along blindfolded.
Storytelling is that one aspect (which leads to many other things) that makes Lost Girls & Love Hotels falters even when Daddario’s showing that she can do more. With slow-moving story that goes here and there, the movie seems lost in conveying its message (if any). In the end, it’s like a hybrid of Lost in Translation and the likes of 50 Shades series but ends up closer to the latter.