It took 15 years. But now is the film adaptation of Catherine Hanrahan’s sensual suspense novel LOST GIRLS & LOVE HOTELS there. In our review we will reveal whether the film relies on the prominence of its original and leading actress Alexandra Daddario.
OT: Lost Girls and Love Hotels (JPN/USA 2020)
Margaret (Alexandra Daddario) is single and on the run from her old life. During the day she works in Tokyo as an English teacher at a training center for aspiring flight attendants, and at night she wanders through the glittering labyrinth that represents the nightlife of the Japanese metropolis. Her compatriots Ines (Carice van Houten) and Liam (Andrew Rothney) provide an occasional point of reference for Margaret when they hit the bars together and bring each other up to date. But above all, it is fleeting things that fill Margaret: the fleeting feeling of an alcoholic intoxication. The short-lived thrill of flirting hard with a shy stranger as they pass by. And the fleeting, hard satisfaction of a one-night stand in a love hotel. Unfortunately for Margaret, the men she picks up are all reserved and don’t know how to deal with her desire to be dominated. Then she meets the dashing, ominous Kazu (Takehiro Hira). The only question that arises for him is: Is it sexual role play or is he really dangerous?
In 2006, five years before EL James’ “Fifty Shades of Gray” triggered a new boom in erotic literature, Catherine Hanrahan’s “Lost Girls & Love Hotels” conquered bookstores. The novel was not granted outstanding sales success, but it did receive much more favorable press reviews than James’ BDSM trilogy or Anna Todd’s “After” series would later generate. In 2009, “Blue Crush” star Kate Bosworth secured the film rights to “Lost Girls & Love Hotels” and planned to use the book’s adaptation as the basis for her debut as a producer, as well as taking on the lead role. With Jean-Marc Vallée (“Dallas Buyers Club”) She also convinced a promising director of the idea. However, the Bosworth/Vallée collaboration was not to come about. The film rights to “Lost Girls & Love Hotels” went under the hammer again in 2017. This time, producer Lawrence Inglee and producer Lauren Mann struck and gave William Olsson the right to direct. They were previously involved with him in “Swiss Army Man”. The trio found Alexandra Daddario (“Songbird”) also a leading actress who was currently on the rise in her career, and the film was in the can before the end of the year. And then ..? Then it was quiet for a long time about “Lost Girls & Love Hotels”.
Alexandra Daddario plays the main role in “Lost Girls & Love Hotels”.
Between the end of filming and the film’s release, there was a lot of rumors: It is recorded that some scenes ended up on the cutting room floor – but that’s everyday life in the film business. However, there are rumors circulating about “Lost Girls & Love Hotels” that the film was massively cut after a distributor was decided. Apparently 45 minutes of scenes are missing that are morally more complex and paint a more drastic picture of the protagonist Margaret’s loneliness and hedonism. And above all, numerous, more explicit nude and sex scenes were shortened. The problem: There is no evidence to be found for this claim made by IMDb users. And so it gets a bitter aftertaste whenever the film is based solely on the reasons “I want to see the extended cut with more bare skin!” is punished in user reviews. Ultimately, it is unfair to Hanrahan, who adapted her own novel into screenplay format, to Olsson, and especially to Daddario, to judge this film based on whether or not a version with more graphic sex scenes is stored on some studio server. Because “Lost Girls & Love Hotels” may not be a big hit. But it’s a film that very skillfully creates a very specific atmosphere and permeates it.
“’Lost Girls & Love Hotels’ may not be a big hit. But it’s a film that very skillfully creates a very specific atmosphere and carries it through.”
As if it were some kind of sexually eager “Lost in Translation” crashed in a seedy bar away from the tourist hotspots (with which this film shares editor Sarah Flack, which is undoubtedly evident), “Lost Girls & Love Hotels” lives. about the feeling of aimlessness: Margaret is sexually active, but otherwise completely listless. Olsson and Hanrahan capture the perception of their protagonist, clouded by alcohol, lack of sleep and sexual frustration (before her meeting with Kazu) or freshly in love, long-term sexual greed (after her meeting with Kazu), by discreetly disorienting the audience: the sound design is very clinical, filled with long, oppressive silence. Dialogue scenes are sketchy. There is only very sporadic information about the elapsed time between individual sequences. And Margaret’s characterization is shaky at best: we are given hardly any clues as to why she is so unmotivated, acts so irresponsibly at work, or what she is even looking for (apart from a dominant sexual partner). Cameraman Kenji Katori captures all of this (“I Hate Love”) in atmospheric images that are dominated by large empty areas – such as blindingly white, barren walls, deep black shadows or the cool “mood lights” of the love hotels, which flatter the people who have booked rooms in them, but are not in the least flattering.
The mood is inevitably reminiscent of Sofia Coppola’s “Lost in Translation”.
Katori and Olsson also specifically avoid sights of Tokyo and the surrounding area that are known from tourism and Western films, instead wandering through the deserted, inconspicuous or dubious-looking corners. All in all, this results in a mood piece that has no interest in discussing Margaret’s character, let alone making her into a likeable, generally understandable figure of identification. We should stand in front of Margaret as perplexed as Margaret stands in front of the unfinished puzzle of her life. You feel, don’t understand. This cinematic concept works not least thanks to Alexandra Daddario, who delivers the best acting performance of her career to date in “Lost Girls & Love Hotels”. Freed from the restrictive constraints of her usual roles, she delivers a casually complex performance here. On the one hand, she allows us to look deeply into Margaret, using her expressive eyes to express unwanted loneliness, provoked emotional isolation, overwhelm or even apathy. Nevertheless, Daddario maintains Margaret’s status as an enigma – her gestures, regardless of the emotional situation, remain mostly unchanged and therefore inscrutable. The effect in this constantly cool film, which is characterized by (sometimes only feigned) composure, is all the greater when Margaret shows emotion. Be it nervous, trembling breathing, a trembling jaw or similar telltale movements when you mistakenly think you are not reacting – unconscious micro-actions mean the world in Margaret’s Tokyo search for meaning.
“Free from the restrictive constraints of her usual roles, Alexandra Daddario delivers a casually complex performance in ‘Lost Girls & Love Hotels’.”
It’s just a shame that the film occasionally shifts the narrative perspective from Margaret to Kazu. Takehiro Hira plays him with a magnetic, intimidating charisma, but he is too concretely sketched to appear as enigmatic as Margaret perceives him. At the same time, Kazu remains too close to Yakuza stereotypes for knowledge about him to be fascinating. Not to mention that the entire film stylistically cries out to represent Margaret’s perspective alone. Even if Margaret likes to drift away from the love hotels: the script and direction should have grabbed her and dragged her back into the focus she deserves.
Conclusion: Narratively not as consistent as it should be, atmospherically but all the more stringent, “Lost Girls & Love Hotels” is an atmospheric anti-character study with a brilliant Alexandra Daddario as a disoriented woman who wanders through Tokyo unsatisfied, agitated and afraid of knowledge.
“Lost Girls and Love Hotels” is now available to stream on Amazon Prime.