Friday, November 27, 2009

Happily Ever After Plus Linda^3 & The Girl Who Leapt Through Time

I watched my second film at Viz Cinema/New People. I enjoyed Happily Ever After (2007) much better than Battle League Horumô. Sadly, New People isn't introducing many new people to J-Pop cinema. Seven people were in the audience for Battle League Horumô and only four people (including me) saw Happily Ever After on the Tuesday night (7 PM) screening I went to.

The film isn't great by any standards. It starts off silly and veers towards melodrama but provides a nice vehicle for actress Miki Nakatani. Opposite her is the capable actor Hiroshi Abe who I recently saw in Still Walking as the put upon surviving son.

Happily Ever After centers around the long-suffering Yukie Morita. She is suffering because her loutish boyfriend doesn't work, is frequently drunk and has a tendency to flip over the dinner table at the slightest provocation. Her downstairs neighbor (Maki Carousel) counts how often the table is flipped as well as how often they have sex (table flips far outnumber coitus).

Why does Yukie put up with his behavior with a cheerful demeanor and never a complaint? The movie explains it through her backstory - Yukie's father was a convicted bank robber so she was ostracized at school. After graduation, she went to Tokyo to start anew...she started streetwalking and a heroin addiction. For some reason, gangster Isao Hayama (Abe) took a liking to her. Why? I'm not sure what he saw in a strung out whore who mocks his declarations of love but he saw something. After hallucinating that a chicken is pecking her, Yukie slits her own throat but her life is saved when Hayama rushes her to the hospital. Upon release from the hospital, Hayama and Yukie leave to start a new life. Hayama is missing his pinkie finger which is shorthand for saying he has left the Yakuza.

After some undefined period of time, that is where the film begins. Hayama doesn't know how to do anything except be a Yakuza gangster and he's bored, frustrated and resentful about his situation. Yukie tries to ease his pain by being the best wife possible (even though they aren't married). She waitresses at a restaurant to support them and makes dinner every night which he more often than not, overturns when something bothers him.

This description sounds very serious and downbeat but the film is mostly a comedy. Hayama's outbursts and behavior played for laughs and Yukie's boss fruitlessly pines for her (to the point of exclusively visiting a massage parlor to see another woman named Yukie). And of course, it has a happy ending with even an unusual bi-racial couple thrown in for good measure.

Happily Ever After is an entertaining enough film. Apparently, based on a manga series, the film may or may not have captured the spirit of the graphic novels.

Miki Nakatani (left) and Hiroshi Abe in Happily Ever After


In December, New People is screening two films that I have seen and enjoyed.

From December 4 to 10, Linda Linda Linda (2005) is screening. I enjoyed the teenage comedy about an all-girl band performing at their high school's spring festival. The film featured a strong performance by Korean actress Doo-na Bae. I saw it at the 2006 SFIAAFF.

On December 15 & 16, New People screens The Girl Who Leapt Through Time (2006) - an anime whose title says it all. The film, which I saw at the 2007 SFIAAFF, was unusually poignant for an anime (which I am typically not a fan of). I can still recall the scene(s) where she is riding her bicycle down a steep hill to a fateful train crossing.

No comments: