Lost Girls and Love Hotels

★★

My interest in Japan and its culture and my baser, more prurient instincts led me to “Lost Girls and Love Hotels,” which is now available on VOD. Don’t make the same mistake I did.

“Lost Girls” focuses on Margaret (Alexandra Daddario), an American expatriate living in Tokyo and teaching English pronunciation to aspiring Japanese flight attendants. Margaret spends her evenings drinking and joking with fellow expats Ines (Carice van Houten) and Liam (Andrew Rothney). She makes cracks about other people’s problems with the bottle, but it’s eventually revealed that she’s the one with the issue. Margaret often shows up late to her gig, disheveled and hungover, which draws the ire of her boss, Mari (Mariko Tsutsui), but Mari gives Margaret slack because she likes and even empathizes with her.

Joking and drinking aren’t Margaret’s only nighttime activities – she often closes her evenings by talking strangers into renting rooms at love hotels where they’ll engage in anonymous sex and BDSM. During one of these sessions she actually makes a connection with the Yakuza-tattooed Kazu (Takashi Miike veteran Takehiro Hira).

Why is Margaret in Japan? Who or what is she running from? Why is she so damaged? These questions are answered in the most cursory sense via throwaway lines. Catherine Hanrahan adapts her 2006 novel of the same name to little fanfare. I imagine this story worked better as a book where you’re provided the inner workings of our heroine’s mind. This is a character piece with little to no character. I know very little about Margaret besides the fact that she likes to drink, smoke, fuck, get choked out with a belt and has a predilection towards Asian dudes. That’s it. Swedish director William Olsson and screenwriter Hanrahan feel as if they took “Looking for Mr. Goodbar,” “Leaving Las Vegas,” “Lost in Translation” and “Fifty Shades of Grey,” shoved ‘em in a blender, hit puree, dumped the contents into a pan and began photocopying them until almost any individualistic and/or interesting attributes of the original works become fuzzily indiscernible.

Daddario is serviceable as Margaret. She’s de-glammed in the role, but still lovely. I feel as though the writing and direction of her character did the performance a disservice. Van Houten is given an absolute nothingburger of a role. I actually think if she and Daddario had traded roles the picture might’ve been better, as she’s proven in Paul Verhoeven’s “Black Book” and on HBO’s “Game of Thrones” to be an actress who can plumb the depths of a part. The most interesting performance and character of the lot is Hira as Kazu. His character changes the most through the course of the movie. He’s mysterious and yet I feel like I know him much more than Margaret.

There’s not a whole lot to recommend about “Lost Girls” aside from Hira’s performance and some really striking opening and closing credits. It’s not sleazy enough to be guiltily entertaining nor substantial enough to be a true character study. It ends in an open-ended fashion that’s open to interpretation … I wasn’t invested enough to care much either way.

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