Toni Collette continues to shine in "Japanese Story," but it's a rather arid tale of a Japanese man and an Australian woman stranded in the outback.
By DAVID N. BUTTERWORTH
Like her male equivalent Philip Seymour Hoffman, Australian actress Toni Collette
has never given a bad performance on film (well I certainly can't think of one).
I loved her in "Muriel's Wedding," the first time I ever noticed her, and she
was excellent in "The Sixth Sense" (although I didn't care much for the movie). Likewise Collette was notable in "The Hours" (a film I didn't much care for
either; she played the trussed-up Kitty Barlowe) and simply wonderful in "About
a Boy" (one of my ten best films of 2002).
|Directed by: Sue Brooks.|
Written by: Alison Tilson.
Cast: Toni Collette, Gotaro Tsunashima, Matthew Dyktynski, Lynette Curran, Yumiko Tanaka, Kate Atkinson, John Howard, Bill Young, Reg Evans, George Shevtsov, Justine Clarke.
Cinematography: Ian Baker.
Music by: Elizabeth Drake.
Related links: Official site | All of David N. Butterworth's reviews at Rotten Tomatoes
And she's hands-down the best thing
about "Japanese Story," a "Sheltering Sky"-like drama about an Australian geologist
and a Japanese businessman who find themselves temporarily stranded in the wide
open spaces of Australia's Pilbara desert (pronounced dez-ut, not de-zurt, "like
the sweet") region. Collette's appropriately named Sandy is "volunteered" by
her boss (Bill Baird) into driving prospective client Tachibana Hiromitsu (Gotaro
Tsunashima) around in the outback in a rented Toyota 4-Runner. Not a very good
ad campaign for the SUV (or Hertz), it turns out, since it quickly gets "bogged,"
with the two mismatched individuals forced to spend the night together par terre
with ne'er a cellular signal between them.
But slowly, imperceptively, Sandy's
permanent frown disperses and she gets all touchy-feely with her vulnerable,
fish-out-of-water charge. Why? When? How? It doesn't seem to matter, but
touchy-feely she gets. Up until this point (about two-thirds of its running
length), the film has been intriguing and entertaining, buoyed along by a vibrant
Collette (and her winsome buck teeth) playing off and with Tsunashima's uptight
There's much to be said out there amid Ian Baker's breathtakingly
shot landscapes, about economics, privilege, and gender, and about how culture
invariably shapes and divides these. But then the unthinkable happens. And
"Japanese Story" loses its story. The remaining third of Sue Brooks's film
is a dull, schmaltzy affair, slow as molasses and hammered home with unflinching
torpor. And it becomes increasingly evident that, without our looking very
far, there wasn't much of a story to begin with.
At this point Alison Tilson's
script breaks down completely. At this point Elizabeth Drake's music becomes
moribund in its repetitiveness. Yet at this point Toni Collette still manages
to pack a considerable wallop, effortlessly expressing guilt, shame, and sadness. It's another solid performance lost in a barren wilderness of easy assumptions
and unfulfilled fancies.
|FEBRUARY 3, 2004|
OFFOFFOFF.COM THE GUIDE TO ALTERNATIVE NEW YORK
Reader comments on Japanese Story:
Post a comment on "Japanese Story"