A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

White on Rice

August, 22, 2010

White on Rice

This is a special treat for us here at A and A. Because of the runaway success of our blog and our extensive Hollywood insider contacts we have scored a preview copy of a movie that hasn’t even been released on DVD yet. Well, okay, we got a pre-release preview copy because our high-school friend is one of the producers, but that counts as insider contacts, right?

I’m not kidding about this being a treat though. I’d like to think that if I were still working at a video store, and if this movie showed up on my shelves I’d have seen it then and enjoyed recommending it to those of my patrons who enjoy simple, amusing, and well made independent films. I just happen, through fortuitous circumstance, to have a chance to discover it a little bit before the rest of the world.

White on Rice is the story of Jimmy, a twelve year old trapped in the body of a forty year old man. His wife has left him and he’s been forced to move in with his sister and her husband, living on the bunk-bed with their son in the basement. Jimmy is, for the most part, a bumbling idiot full of good intentions who, in spite of his enthusiasm, is completely incapable of ever getting anything right. His sister Aiko finds him fun, even with all the trouble he causes. His brother-in-law Tak thinks he’s an unbearable nuisance (and to be fair, Jimmy has been responsible for a fair number of disasters.) Jimmy tries to be an adult role model for his nephew Bob, which is ironic because Bob, at all of ten years old, is the most adult person in the whole family. All the time Jimmy is trying to find a new woman to fill the hole left by his wife, with very little luck.

As the movie starts Tak’s niece Ramona is preparing to visit the family for a while, and Jimmy gets it into his head that she is the perfect woman for him. The only problem is that she already has a boyfriend; Jimmy’s suave and cool co-worker Tim. So if he is to convince Ramona that he is the man for her he will have to overcome not just the objections of Tak and Tim’s coolness, but his own bumbling ways.

Hiroshi Watanabe, as Jimmy, has a very difficult tightrope to walk here. Jimmy is a complete fool almost all of the time. Even his best intentioned efforts to do things right tend to backfire, and it’s easy to see why Tak desperately wants him out of the house. When he tries to be clever or duplicitous in his attempts to woo Ramona it is almost cringe inducing. It would be easy to over do this and end up with the lead character being so destructive and oblivious that the movie would suffer for it, but Hiroshi manages to play him with such wide-eyed enthusiasm that you can’t help having a soft spot for the character. He can’t help being what he is, and you do sort of come to appreciate that he’s trying to do his best.

The rest of the cast does a great job as well. Particularly delightful is Mio Takada as Tak, Jimmy’s long-suffering brother-in-law. At first his whole purpose in the movie is to disapprove of Jimmy, with a series of grumpy and dour glares, but as things progress he has a side-plot that adds a lot more depth to his character. Tak is worried that his wife, too, might lose interest in him and as their twelfth anniversary is almost upon them he is trying in his own quiet, desperate way to show her that he still cares. Meanwhile both he and his wife have sort of lost touch with their industrious but lonely son. There are some good laughs in this side-plot and also some touching tenderness.

Indeed I’d say that that is true of most of the movie. It combines laugh out loud moments of brutal honesty with a kind hearted message of familial love. Sure there are bumps along the way, and sure Jimmy almost inadvertently ruins everything he touches, but ultimately the real heart of the movie wins out.

Writer/Director Dave Boyle does a great job too. You never get the feeling that this is a small film made on an independent film budget. The actors are all fully committed to their parts, and if there were corners being cut it’s not easily seen on film. There are even some clever innovations that come out of the budgetary restraints. (My favorite shot in the movie is one of a car speeding off with one of the lead characters in peril, and the camera bounces and bobs as the cameraman literally runs after it. It’s not a POV shot, but the harsh camera movement really imparted to me an urgency that a dolly shot or a simple zoom would have lacked.)

This movie was just fun to watch. From its fantastic cinematic opening to Jimmy’s fun dreams to his every awkward attempt to interact with normal human beings there were honest and simple laughs throughout. And of course as a twelve year old boy in a forty year old body myself I can’t help sympathising with Jimmy’s plight. I somewhat regret not working in a video store any more so I can’t recommend it to anybody when it does eventually make its way to DVD (after its whirlwind tour of the indie film circuit is done later this year.)

August 22, 2010 - Posted by | daily reviews | , , , ,

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