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Eriq La Salle,
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Joshua Michael Stern
Abby, four years out of college, an aimless child of privilege, comes to Tokyo to be with her boyfriend, who promptly leaves for Osaka. She wants to stay in Tokyo in hopes he'll come back to her, but she's miserable: she speaks little Japanese and has a dull job as a law-firm gopher. She stumbles into the neighborhood ramen shop operated by the aging master chef Maezumi and his wife Reiko. His soup cheers Abby, so she decides to apprentice herself to him. He's uninterested, she's insistent, so he shouts at her and gives her all the cleaning to do. Weeks go by; she's persistent. Will he ever actually teach her to cook? And if he does, will she bring the requisite spirit to the job? Written by
A Creative and Fascinating Fusion of Japanese and American
Shot on location this drama is unique in that it attempts to portray a spoiled (rich) girl literally abandoned in Tokyo Japan and whose solace is found in learning to cook Ramen noodles from a grumpy and difficult Ramen cook. What makes this movie special is its heavy use of actual Japanese dialogue with subtitles and Brittany Murphy's character's actual very limited Japanese. What happens on screen is a rarely seen storyline where the main characters are relatively clueless as to what the other person is talking about. Somewhat like ENEMY MINE (1985), a sci fi movie where the protagonist and antagonist are aliens to each other, Brittany's character and her sensei (teacher) must bumble through somehow. There is also suggestive similarities to SIMPLY Irresistible (1999) where Sarah Michelle Gellar cooks up emotional dishes but without the literal magic in that movie. Unfortunately a few editing problems and storyline line flow are disrupted by the sometimes later collapse or confusion as to the English/Japanese language barrier (where there are a few scenes where it's confusing as to how much Japanese and English the characters understand, and also some underdeveloped backstories and follow-through on their emotionally satisfying resolution (the sensei's son for example). While played as a drama, it is somewhat light on the drama which in some ways misses the opportunity to play it even more straight and serious which may have enabled this movie to become an actual serious contender for an award. The ending also didn't seem to quite gel in some ways as the abrupt nature of the changes in Brittany's character's life seem somewhat sudden and inconsistent with how the movie seemed to be flowing.
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