Movie Title: Memoirs of a Geisha
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ (6/10)
Memoirs of a Geisha official site: http://www.memoirsofageisha.com
The highly anticipated and talked about movie, an adaptation from the best seller novel of the same title – Memoirs of a Geisha is set to turn heads, but I personally find the casting were totally off. It’s funny how, all the 3 main lead were Chinese actress while most of the rest of the cast were Japanese. I’m not saying no Chinese can take up that role, but really there isn’t any Japanese actress that could fit any of the 3 spot? 😪
From the trailer itself, I already have a strong feeling that Zhang Zhiyi and Michelle Yeoh and the role they are to play was a misfit. We are after all talking about a life of a Geisha and not a Chinese hostess. While for Gong Li, it’s a half-half for me, she does have that arrogant, “think she’s all that” attitude with a more Japanese look that the other two. But still, I believe there are many other Japanese actress that could fit the role, understands the Geisha culture more and showcase it better.
The movie tells a tale of Nitta Sayuri (Zhang Zhiyi) and how she became one of the most famous geisha during World War II. It started from the very beginning where Chiyo, the young Sayuri (Suzuka Ohgo) and her sister were born to a poor family in the fishing village. As her mother is seriously ill and the family in desperate need of money, Chiyo and her sister were sold and they both were separated when they arrived in Tokyo. Chiyo is being sold to an Okiya (house of geisha) while her sister is being sold to a prostitution ring.
Hatsumomo (Gong Li) the most famous geisha at the point in time also stays in the same okiya as Chiyo, and there Chiyo also met another young girl, Pumpkin (Zoe Weizenbaum) who’s also being sold to the okiya. Hatsumomo has never liked Chiyo as she is poor yet beautiful and she could sense her treats to her status in the future. Chiyo was used by Hatsumomo to destroy Mahema (Michelle Yeoh), one of Hatsumomo’s close rivals when she finds out Chiyo’s intension to escape the okiya to find her sister.
Sadden that she is not able to escape and her sister has left without her and the poor treatment she received from the okiya owner as her debts are mounting, Chiyo ran out and met with the handsome looking Chairman (Ken Watanabe) and with his kindness and advice, Chiyo is determined to be the next most famous geisha. Luck is on her way when Mahema took her under her wings as a maiko (apprentice geisha) and start training her and changed her name to Sayuri, while Hatsumomo trained Pumpkin to rival with Chiyo.
With the help of Mahema’s client, Nobu and the Chairman, Sayuri is soon one of the most sought after geisha where she has managed to got the highest bid of all time 15,000 yen on her mizuage day. Instead of giving the money to Sayuri to clear her debts, the okiya owner decides to elevate to Nitta Sayuri and lets her own the okiya. And just when life seems to be better, war between America and Japan happened and Sayuri is forced to leave Tokyo and settled down in a rural town. She later return to Tokyo to help the Chairman and Nobu build their relationship with the Americans and sign an agreement, as the Americans are interested to meet a true geisha. The movie do have some kind of happy ending where Sayuri and the Chairman finally got together, to be half a wife.
The movie is really a beautiful gift for the eyes, but the storyline is hollow and surface with little build up for each character.
Sayuri’s character had the most screen time, but Zhang’s poor performance fails to bring our the geisha spirit in her and her acting were just too forceful, while Mahema played by Michelle Yeoh is boring and plain. Looking at all Michelle Yeoh being a master or teacher movie, she is just acting herself. From being a master in kung fu, to being a master in geisha world still the same facial expression, same tone and same look.
The scenery and the costumes were lifesavers, and as honest as it can be, without the beautiful scenery and those beautiful and stunning kimonos, the movie will be even make it to blockbuster.