Review: Alexandra Daddario shines in the darkness of ‘Lost Girls and Love Hotels’
It’s a moody ballad of a woman on the verge, but this is not a love song.
In “Lost Girls and Love Hotels,” Margaret (Alexandra Daddario) is a beautiful, deeply troubled American in Tokyo. She instructs flight attendants in English pronunciation during the day. By night, she puts her hand in the flame of copious booze and bondage-infused sex with “functional strangers.” Little of her backstory is revealed; we meet her mid-plunge.
Enter older, well-heeled, powerful Kazu (Takehiro Hira), whom she calls “the most beautiful man that I have ever seen.” When he disrobes, revealing the tattoos of a yakuza (gangster), it’s accelerant to her self-immolation. The added danger — the suicidal lust — suits Margaret, determined to slide down this spiral. What she’s not ready for is the realness of their connection and the depth of the emotions he inspires.
“Lost Girls” may be unfairly lumped in with the “Fifty Shades of Greys” of the world, but its closer cousins are Steve McQueen’s “Shame” or even “Leaving Las Vegas.” The sex isn’t played for titillation. This is a sober portrait of a woman in trouble, whose depressive, compulsive and self-destructive tendencies lead her down a dangerous road. Her pursuits aren’t glamorous and they’re potentially lethal, and William Olsson’s direction captures that. When she hits bottom, will she bounce back or shatter?
Olsson immerses the viewer in a bustling daytime Tokyo that turns atmospherically menacing at night. He, cinematographer Kenji Katori and production designer Arad Sawat use color and depth to create moody, vivid visual environments. Sarah Flack’s calm editing lets us take in all the flavors, even the bitter ones. Costumer Tony Crosbie’s light touch effectively defines characters and quietly tracks Margaret’s decline.
Trailer for “Lost Girls and Love Hotels,” starring Alexandra Daddario and Takehiro Hira.
Catherine Hanrahan adapted the screenplay from her 2006 novel. Her dialogue is blunt without being on the nose. Scenes divulge just enough, then move on. She has a special touch for Margaret’s self-loathing. When a sweet, handsome fellow who’d rather not engage in the rough sex play she wants says, “I want to know your mind,” Margaret pitilessly retorts, “No, you don’t.”
None of this would matter without a compelling central performance, and Daddario delivers. She absolutely goes for it, abrupt gear changes and all. The actress’ subtle physical choices make Margaret’s state of distress feel real without indicating. She receives information poignantly, as when a rare moment of happiness runs crushingly into the truth of Kazu’s situation. Daddario and Hira, who has real screen presence, have chemistry together, rather than the “Here are two gorgeous people; let’s assume they have feelings for each other” doll play we’re often served on a cold plate. Sadly, the abrupt ending undoes some of the movie’s good work.
“Lost Girls and Love Hotels” takes Margaret down dark corridors on a journey that may culminate in rebirth or take her somewhere she may never be found. Daddario and company make it worth the trip.
'Lost Girls and Love Hotels'
Rated: R, for strong sexual content, nudity, and language
Running time: 1 hour, 37 minutes
Release info: Available Sept. 18 on VOD
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