clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

‘Lost Girls & Love Hotels’: Alexandra Daddario ups her game as an expat doing some Tokyo drifting

The expressive actress plays a teacher punishing herself with alcohol and rough sex in a smart psychological thriller.

Margaret (Alexandra Daddario) spends her days in Tokyo teaching English and her nights partying to excess in “Lost Girls and Love Hotels.”
Astrakan Film AB

Alexandra Daddario has a wonderfully expressive face and a natural screen presence, and she’s done her best work on TV in vehicles such as “True Detective” and “”American Horror Story” — but she turns in arguably her finest performance to date in the VOD feature film “Lost Girls & Love Hotels,” a smart and sobering erotic psychological thriller that plays like “Looking for Mr. Goodbar” meets “Lost in Translation.”

Though clearly working with a limited budget, director William Olsson does a superb job of adapting Catherine Hanrahan’s semi-autobiographical novel about a North American expat who is living in Japan and nearly drowning in excess partying and anonymous and sometimes dangerous sexual encounters. Daddario’s Margaret lands a job teaching English — well, actually just pronouncing English phrases — to aspiring flight attendants at a Tokyo school, under the watchful and sometimes judgmental tutelage of a headmistress (Misuzu Kanno) who harbors a soft spot for Margaret because she sees a bit of her younger self in this disorganized, self-destructive young woman.

Director Olsson and cinematographer Kenji Katori bathe the film in dark and sexy visual tones as Margaret spends her nights hanging with a couple of fellow expats (played by Andrew Rothney and Carice van Houten from “Game of Thrones”), getting wasted and then wandering off for random sexual encounters — and that’s when Margaret’s wounded psyche rises to the forefront, as she insists her partners indulge her fetish for rough S&M play, including choking her to the point of nearly passing out. When one participant backs off and says he wants to get to know Margaret as a person and not just an object of sexual gratification, she snaps: “No you don’t.” She uses rough sex as a defense mechanism and as a way of punishing herself because she has no sense of self-worth.

The last thing Margaret is looking for is love, but she finds herself falling for a dashing and mysterious older man named Kazu (Takehiro Hira in a mesmerizing performance), who has intricate and imposing full-body tattoos indicating he’s with Yakuza, aka Japanese organized crime. “Lost Girls & Love Hotels” takes on elements of “9 ½ Weeks” and “Fifty Shades of Grey” as Margaret and Kazu become intertwined, physically and beyond, which could lead either to Margaret’s salvation or her demise. The story ends on a perfect note and we’ll leave it at that.

This is one of the better intimate dramas of the year.