White on Rice (2009)
directed by Dave Boyle, written by Dave Boyle & Joel Clark
starring Hiroshi Watanabe (Letters from Iwo Jima), Lynn Chen and James Kyson Lee (Heroes, Akira’s Hip Hop Shop).
English, Japanese w/ English subtitles
I won a sneak peek dvd edition of the film from a contest and was eager to watch it. As advertised it’s a light comedy that stars Watanabe as Jimmy, a 40 year old divorcee living with his sister’s family. Jimmy shares a bunk bed with his 10 year old nephew, Bob who in many ways is more mature than him. In search of a new wife, Jimmy happens to meet Ramona (Lynn Chen) who is the niece of his brother in law.
For a comedy White on Rice starts off strong and has a good number of laughs. How much you like this film will hinge very much on how much you like Jimmy. Throughout the film, Jimmy is portrayed as a man child, a more recent movie archetype that I am none too fond of. Even worse though is that for a 40 year old, he’s pretty damn stupid and I tend to dislike dumb characters too. In spite of this I liked Watanabe’s enthusiastic acting and wish his character had been given more brains. The acting as well as the writing of the characters for the rest of the cast was very good although Tim (James Kyson Lee) and Ramona weren’t developed much. The storyline of the parents and their son Bob in particular was a delight to watch.
Unfortunately what keeps me from really liking the film was the ending which fell victim to cliches that hastily and conveniently wrapped up everything with a nice bow. Without spoiling too much, Jimmy is dubiously given praise for “saving” his brother in law and everyone is thankful even though Jimmy was the one who caused it in the first place. As I said before, Jimmy is an idiot and I guess we’re meant to find his idiocy funny (and it can be at times I admit) but in this case it was definitely not. Having said that, this sort of ending is really no worse than many an average Hollywood romcom.
I wouldn’t dissuade somebody from buying the film but I can’t outright recommend the film which pains me because the majority of it was very enjoyable. It’s just that ending and Jimmy’s stupidity was too much for me to turn my brain off on. If you’re an undemanding film goer and are just looking for a fun date movie or something to unwind to with a happy ending then I think you’ll enjoy this all the way.
You can buy the dvd from the official site or check it out for local screenings near you.