Lost Girls and Love Hotels
by Brandon Thomas
“I tell myself…there’s no happy ending.”
Cinema revels in emotion. It’s why the artform has lasted well over a century. We love to experience films that make us laugh, make us afraid, and make us examine even the darkest of our decisions. Lost Girls & Love Hotels is an exploration of these painful, disorientated choices.
Margaret (Alexandra Daddario) is an American ex-pat living in Japan. By day, she teaches at a training academy for Japanese stewardesses. By night, Margaret loses herself in booze and random rendezvous in the red light district. Her life of debauchery softens after she meets a brooding Yakuza (Takehiro Hira).
Margaret’s pain and self-loathing are apparent from the opening frames: she drunkenly stumbles through a subway entrance, tears brimming in her wide eyes as she realizes a man is lurking behind her. Fear is less apparent in her distant gaze. What I saw was more akin to someone finally succumbing to their demons. This was rock bottom.
Lost Girls & Love Hotels isn’t looking to break new ground. There’s no way this movie could. What’s interesting – and original – is how this kind of movie is told through the point of view of a female character. We’ve seen self-destructive dudes do this for eons. Let the ladies have a turn at spiraling out of control!
Daddario turns in an impressive performance as Margaret. She walks a fine line – showing the character’s high-highs and low-lows with ease. Her wide-eyed, all-American look helps her stand out in a mostly Japanese cast. One would expect a person with such outwardly beauty to harbor very little in the way of pain. For a character like this one, believability is key, and Daddario delivers.
Director William Olsson and writer Catherine Hanrahan (adapting her own novel) haven’t set out to make a salacious sex drama. While Margaret’s BDSM escapades inform who her character is, Lost Girls & Love Hotels is more interested in a person who has latched onto numbing behavior. Isolation, even with a core group of friends and co-workers, is ever-present in Margaret’s condensed world.
There’s a simmering sense of danger running through the entire film. Olsson never wrings false drama out of it, but that subtle feeling is there nevertheless. When Margaret does find herself in a precarious situation, it feels more like an eventuality, not the tacked-on payoff to a sleazy thriller.
Grounded with an outstanding lead performance, Lost Girls & Love Hotels is a look at how sadness and isolation isn’t something you can run away from – even if you run halfway across the world.