9 June 2017 | aghaemi
Action That Clicks
Tabloids and pulp gossip magazines are to journalism what circulars and flyers are to literature. No one admits to reading tabloids, but somehow someone somewhere must be or they wouldn't be so prevalent. "We're lower than street vermin," says the paparazzo which rings true even as the magazine for which he is a contractor nonetheless measures readership in the tens of thousands. Working for such a publication cannot be pleasant and so as the film begins Shizuka Miyakonojo is not a happy camper working for Scoop magazine to begin with, but things become nominally worse when the degraded paparazzi is forced to take on a trainee partly to ensnare subjects and partly, well, to train someone. Why the editor is so insistent about putting the two in this position is never clear however. The photographer is crude, like his employment, and she is green. Namekawa Nobi is attractive and the circumstances naturally become involved between the man and the woman with a twenty five-year age difference. That is, of course, not a problem and age is just a number, except to footnote that when we last saw Fumi Nikaido it was in 2016's Mitsu No Aware ('Bitter Honey') where she was sleeping with someone her grandfather's age, which itself was a couple of years after her appearance in Jigoku De Naze Warui ('Why Don't You Play In Hell') where, if you recall, her father's yakuza rival was head over heels for her. Incidentally, if you do not recall and have no idea what those films are it is not too late for a remediation. Back to the present day however and the film that premiered in North America at this screening. What is the low-down on this film, which reportedly was inspired by an obscure 1985 film by writer/director Masato Harada called Tosha ('Candid Shot')? On the rare occasion real-world pulp magazines hit on something actual and worthwhile and Namekawa and Shizuka are several times on the verge of their own big break. It takes a lot of toil, sweat and perseverance of course, but for them the hardest part is yet to come. Somewhere around here is where the audience oscillates between trying to figure out whether the film is a tragedy, a serious riff on contemporary society or a simple mockery of a comedy. This is a weakness because we are either supposed to laugh at the circumstance or consider the issue seriously and both won't simultaneously do when the topic and stakes are high. The surprise ending makes matters more clear. Either way, this is a somewhat original film with a premise that rolls well and shows sincerely and realistically. Could it partly be because the actors are playing roles they are familiar with? After all, gossip magazines and paparazzi are likely a fact of life for them in the real world.
The silly tape labels on screen at the beginning up to the middle of the film soon disappear. On the flip side, the aerial shots of Tokyo at night are incredibly beautiful and dazzling. As is not uncommon with Japanese actors the ensemble overacts. Especially guilty is Nobi as the rookie. Almost as overdone is editor Sadako who is so care-free and open-minded and Shizuka who can't care less and gets away with it. Lily Frankie, who in 2016's My Dad And Mr. Ito was the model for patience and understanding, is more overblown than the rest of them combined. Incidentally, in that film the man was twenty years older than the woman too, her parent was grumbling and she was not letting it bother her.
Scoop! is certainly a fun film to watch whichever way one looks at it. From physical action to a car chase, from celebrity spotting to exposing illicit affairs, from showing skin to booze and crimes the film has it all. Most of all, the audience revels with the characters in their dedication to their mission. Having said that, when one really thinks about it there neither is a core message nor a bigger concept at play here. It is curiously riveting to watch, but that is it and, as such and in my books, Scoop! remains good, but not great.