Lost Girls and Love Hotels is an erotic drama desperately in need of a spark or the cinematic equivalent of a small little blue pill.
Margaret (Alexandra Daddario, We Summon the Darkness) is a hot mess and she’s spiraling down an uninterrupted path of self-destruction. She spends her nights getting stupid drunk with her pal (Carice van Hauten, Game of Thrones) and randomly hooking up with any stranger that shows her a casually interested glance. Margaret isn’t especially particular picky either.
Her flings can take place in a bathroom stall or offices. Most often, she takes advantage of Japan’s love hotels for her one-night stands. While this could be an empowering look at Margaret’s sexual freedom it’s hard not to get the sense that she’s being used and abused as she prefers her conquests to strangle her, tie her up and otherwise treat her like trash. Margaret’s motto is basically if he’s DTF she’s got the zip ties and rope.
This lifestyle doesn’t always flow seamlessly with her job as an English assistant for flight attendant school where she frequently shows up a disheveled, hungover mess. Margaret’s seeming lack of interest in doing her job seems especially peculiar since this escape to Japan is only contingent on actually getting a paycheck.
A chance encounter with Kazu (Takehiro Hira), a Yakuza, offers Margaret a break from her casual flings as she is quickly infatuated. Courtships in Lost Girls basically come down to long intense glances and it’s hard to see what makes Kazu so different from anyone else Margaret has encountered. Besides the novelty of hooking up with an American there’s even less incentive for Kazu to be invested in this relationship.
I found myself waiting for something remotely interesting to occur, which shouldn’t be that hard with a character involved in the Yakuza. Instead, Kazu’s criminal and dangerous occupation are placed on the back burner to Margaret’s more pedestrian and dull life choices. And once the point is made that Margaret is disinterested in caring for herself let alone anyone else she doesn’t make for the most engaging lead.
Catherine Hanrahan adapts her 2006 novel. It seems like the screenplay misses more of the insight into Margaret’s backstory to explain her destructive behavior or Hanrahan could have developed Kazu beyond this object of infatuation for Margaret. Even giving Kazu more screen time to explore a distant side of his Yakuza involvement could have added some spice to the film. As is, Kazu could basically be a doctor, lawyer or a business mogul.
Director William Olsson is all about a methodical and uneventful pace. Olsson devotes more time than necessary to basic functions like walking down a hallway or staring aimlessly. Still, if you want to focus on someone just looking out at the Japanese cityscape, it’s hard to find a better subject than Daddario with her piercing blue eyes.
The script doesn’t really allow Daddario much to do besides gaze into oblivion and sleepwalk through life. Margaret’s journey is so frustrating as there’s no real explanation for it so the audience is just tasked with watching her hit rock bottom. There’s no entertainment factor in that and Daddario’s youthful appearance makes it feel all the more depressing. Hira has a strong presence and commands attention in spite of his limited role.
Olsson frames shots wonderfully and there’s a real artistry in how he sets them up. Cinematographer Kenji Katori does an amazing job with sharp reds and blues against the dark and cluttered backdrops.
Lost Girls and Love Hotels feels twice as long as its 97-minute run time thanks to a lack of progression or desire for greater investment in the characters. It’s impressive to look at, but it’s just as shallow and empty as a one-night stand.
Love Girls & Lost Hotels is available on Digital and On-Demand this Friday.
Rating: 5 out of 10
Photo Credit: Wandering Trail Pictures