29 December 2003 | kurai_hisui
I wanted to like this movie, I really did (no spoilers)
Personally, I like the odd pacing of Japanese dramas, not too picky about bits of freaky English, and willing to put up with a lot from anything Ryoko Hirosue is in (I even made a heartfelt effort to like Wasabi). But all I can think of in regards to this movie is "what went wrong?" Well, first, the plot. The overall story could have been a very touching little love story, a la "Truly, madly, deeply," or at least "Reisei to jônetsu no aida" (if you like Japanese flicks). Morose photographer Makoto Seigawa (Matsuda) and quirky Shizuru Satonaka (the ever adorable Hirosue) meet, fall for each other, and have an amusing 'opposites attract' relationship, until Seigawa does what every moody male Japanese lead does and screws it up. Ok, typical set up, but done fairly well. But once Seigawa goes to New York, things just get screwy. It turns into a cheezy comedy/mystery/action (very loosely speaking) seizure. You'd get more plot consistency randomly channel surfing. I honestly wouldn't be surprised to hear that a bunch of scripts got mixed up, and no one noticed until they were too over-budget to re-shoot. Why does Seigawa keep getting beaten up? What's with all the guns? What does the Chinese Mafia have to do with anything? Your guess is as good as mine. When they finally do get around to the main plot again, it's pretty much duct-tapped together with coincidences, if at all. The 'climax' come out of nowhere, and plays out like an episode of "G.I. Joe". All this makes the last desperate attempt to return to a serious drama even more pathetic. And then the acting. Now, Hirosue and Matsuda can both act. I really believe they could have pulled this off (with a serious script rewrite, at least, which would have given them a chance to develop their chemistry a little more too). The other Japanese actors are mediocre, but the English parts are truly beyond belief. That's fine if you're only dealing with a few bit parts, but half the movie and most of the secondary characters are in New York. That's a heck of a lot of pre-school-Christmas-play level acting to put up with. Matsuda obviously has only a vague clue as to what he's saying, and he still had the best delivery in the bunch. Ok, there's some nice cinematography (not too much to ask from a movie about photographers), and lots of pretty pictures (mostly of Hirosue, which is fine if you, like me, have a thing for her). Unfortunately, any symbols of any significance are then pounded into your brain again and again, often followed by a close-up in case you still missed the point (all right with the oranges already, WE GET IT!!). The meandering tangents in New York feel like one of the financial backer's nephews said "Gee... New York, maybe we should toss something in about 9-11. Oh, and race relations, yeah, that's good too." I wanted to like this movie, for the following reasons:
1.Ryoko Hirosue's in it (but not nearly enough). 2.Ryuhei Matsuda's in it (but his monotone English is only witty for about the first 3 lines. Then it's just monotone). 3.The Japanese DVD has English subtitles (but they don't match the dialogue, even the English parts) 4.It's a Japanese romantic drama, and I like those (well, the first part is, then you have to be on crack just to keep up).